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Pitt's Voytik is No. 2, and he tries harder

| Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2012, 8:50 p.m.
Pitt quarterback Chad Voytik during practice on the South Side on Aug. 21, 2012. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)

Dark clouds rolled overhead at Pitt's South Side practice field late Tuesday afternoon, almost like someone had turned off the lights in a big room.

But the light went on for freshman quarterback Chad Voytik, who ignored the rain and wet grass and dived into the end zone on a rollout play that generated a loud roar of approval from his teammates.

There is no current quarterback controversy at Pitt, with fifth-year senior Tino Sunseri entrenched as the starter. But Voytik has seized the No. 2 job after an injury slowed sophomore Trey Anderson, and he is getting a firm grip on an offense that was foreign to him only a few months ago.

“He's getting better with repetition,” coach Paul Chryst said. “Not that every rep is always right or what you want it to be. But I think he is learning. He is taking advantage of the work he is getting.”

Offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph offered high praise of Voytik when he said, “It's important to him. He has a lot to continue to learn, but I like his approach.”

Voytik has performed well the past two days as training camp winds down before the team begins preparing for the Sept. 1 opener against Youngstown State. Not every pass is perfect, and he got lucky earlier Tuesday when cornerback Cullen Christian dropped what should have been an interception.

But he has placed a few passes perfectly over the shoulder of receivers streaking down the sideline and shown poise in the pocket, albeit against a pass rush going at practice speed.

But Rudolph has noticed some characteristics about Voytik that could signal future success.

“I think he does a nice job of being in the moment,” he said. “He makes good decisions. He throws the ball well. He throws it on the move well. He is starting to pick up the offense. Athletically, he has some real tools. I'm happy about his progress.”

Voytik might be considered former coach Todd Graham's parting gift to Pitt. Before Graham left for Arizona State, Voytik committed, thinking he would be playing in the option-read offense — the same scheme in which he threw for more than 5,000 career yards at Cleveland (Tenn.) High School.

To Chryst's credit, one of the first telephone calls he made after he was hired Dec. 22 was to Voytik, reassuring him that the new staff wanted him for its dramatically different pro-style attack. Voytik, who operated out of the shotgun in high school, was going under center for the first time.

His response? A shrug of the shoulders.

“I don't feel like it is (a big deal),” he said. “I feel like I can pick it up and get rolling with it and get the timing. It's a great thing for timing in the passing game.”

It was much more important to him that Chryst called him so soon after taking the job.

“That was big for me,” Voytik said. “That's something you want to know. I had already committed to the university and everything in my mind was still what I wanted, so I tried to stay faithful to it.”

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can reached at jdipaola@tribweb.com or 412-320-7997.

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