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Pitt's Chryst must decide between seasoned Savage, youthful Voytik

| Friday, April 5, 2013, 11:12 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt quarterbacks Chad Voytik (left) and Tom Savage work out during spring practice Tuesday, March 5, 2013, at UPMC indoor practice facility on Pittsburgh's South Side.

Chad Voytik stands tall, head high, chest pumped. And not just when he's in the pocket, trying to see his way toward the starting quarterback job at Pitt.

He has a long way to go, but he's playing with more confidence these days.

“I'm really taking the next step,” Voytik said. “I'm trying to dive in deeper this year, and I feel like I've done that so far.”

Voytik's second season finds him locked in competition with more experienced teammate Tom Savage. If he's made up his mind, coach Paul Chryst isn't ready to reveal a decision, but Savage has a slight edge.

First of all, he's nearly four years older than Voytik, 19. Savage started as a freshman at Rutgers in 2009 and learned at transfer destinations Arizona and Pitt the past two seasons.

Most important, Savage has a big-time arm.

“This is about as strong as my arm has ever been,” he said.

The key is securing a connection with the receivers, a difficult task without a true starter opposite Devin Street. Chryst has been patient, noting there's been good and bad.

“That's OK right now,” he said. “I love the approach that he has, and he's learning (to throw) to different guys who are also learning about being in the right spot.”

Voytik brings a different dimension to the Pitt passing game than Savage, a stay-at-home, survey-the-field quarterback, who stands 6-foot-5, 230 pounds.

Voytik, 6-1, 205, also has a strong arm, but he can make things happen with his feet.

That's the tricky part. Chryst and quarterback coach Brooks Bollinger want to see what Voytik can do while sitting in the pocket, reading defenses and finding quick outlets for his passes.

Yet they don't want to restrain his athleticism.

“When it shuts down, speed up the legs and go do something,” Chryst said.

Voytik has impressed Chryst with his ability to run the two-minute offense.

“He didn't get a ton of those reps last year, and I thought he did a pretty good job,” he said after one recent practice. “Chad is working through (progressions) a little bit better.”

Voytik has good speed and instincts when he tucks the ball under his arm and runs, but he's trying to become a complete quarterback.

“I'm trying (to rely less on his mobility),” he said. “It's a struggle. I want to use it more as a weapon, not my first option.”

Voytik describes the competition as “unique.”

“(Savage) has had more background,” he said. “He's already played in some college games, had more time to learn the game. But as far as the (Pitt) offense goes, we are going through it together We both help each other out.”

Voytik has four years of eligibility remaining and may enter another competition next year with freshman Tra Chapman. Savage is in his last year.

“I don't have time on my side,” he said.

He points to Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who transferred in 2011 from North Carolina State to Wisconsin and flourished in one season under Chryst, who was the Badgers' offensive coordinator.

In a conversation with former Pitt quarterback Pat Bostick, who is part of the game-day broadcast team, Savage said he admires what Wilson accomplished at Wisconsin.

“If he can do it in one year, so can I,” he said.

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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