Savage named Pitt's starting quarterback
By Jerry DiPaola
Published: Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013, 2:12 p.m.
Tom Savage all but shrugged his shoulders when coach Paul Chryst walked into a meeting room before practice Wednesday and named him Pitt's starting quarterback.
“I was excited, but I'd be a fool to take it anymore than that, especially with what happened to me in the past,” he said.
Five years ago, Savage was Rutgers' starting quarterback as a freshman before getting hurt and losing the job the next season. That's when he transferred to Arizona and, finally, to Pitt last year in a final attempt to resurrect a once-promising career.
“I can't become complacent,” he said. “It's a privilege, but I have to keep working, and I have a lot of room to improve.”
Savage, a 23-year-old fifth-year senior, beat out redshirt freshman and 2012 prized recruit Chad Voytik.
Coach Paul Chryst said his decision had more to do with Savage's progress and skill than anything Voytik, 19, failed to do.
“I feel really good and confident in Tom and really like the direction Chad is going,” Chryst said. “Right now, (Savage) gives us the best chance for our team to win.”
No matter who plays quarterback, Pitt's passing game will undergo a major change this season with new personnel — freshman wide receiver Tyler Boyd is starting to put his hands around a starting job — and a quarterback who can throw the ball deep with accuracy.
“He's certainly talented,” Chryst said of Savage, who is 6-foot-5, 230 pounds.
The next sign of progress would be for Savage to get comfortable with his receivers.
“Not just with the receivers, but just his own timing,” Chryst said. “Maybe he's sure, but he's not sure if the guy is sure. We have to work through those (situations).”
Savage hasn't played since 2010 — and, then, only four starts — after throwing for Big East freshman records in yardage (2,211) and touchdowns (14) in 2009.
“I am anxious to get out there, but I don't want to wish away time,” he said. “I want to have this opportunity to become better as a team and improve.”
Part of that process involves becoming familiar with Boyd and senior wide receiver Devin Street.
Boyd appears to be ahead of the older wide receivers in the unsettled battle for a starting job.
“I love the progress he's been making,” Chryst said. “I think he has done a great job of learning. He wants to be coached.”
Offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph said Boyd is developing a comfort level after a demanding week of practice.
“You can see it in the speed he's playing at,” Rudolph said.
Asked about his confidence level, Boyd put it at “71⁄2 to 8” on a scale of 1-10. He said it was 61⁄2 last week.
Savage called Boyd “a phenomenal player.”
“Every time, (coaches) say first team, I'm in there,” Boyd said. “I'm not saying I'm a starter yet. I'm going to keep working.”
Boyd credits Street with reducing his learning curve.
“I try to see everything he's doing,” Boyd said. “He keeps asking me, ‘You good? You good?'
“If he keeps leading, I'm going to keep following.”
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.
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