Starkey: What will Tyler Boyd do next?
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Pitt receivers coach Bobby Engram was trying to explain the phenomenon that is Tyler Alexander Boyd when his young son Trey bounded into the room.
Engram turned to his son and said, “Hey, who made the biggest play out there?”
“Tyler,” Trey said. “He made the best play.”
Engram responded with the question of the hour after Boyd's coming-out party as Pitt's latest offensive star: “Which one?”
Indeed, there were three superb choices on a day in which Boyd accounted for 195 all-purpose yards and two spectacular touchdowns in Pitt's 49-27 romp over New Mexico.
The first occurred on Pitt's fifth snap. New Mexico cornerback Cranston Jones practically had crawled inside the back of Boyd's jersey, but that didn't stop the man whose Twitter handle is “Alexander The Great” from hauling in a 51-yard bomb from quarterback Tom Savage.
The second happened quickly — real quickly — late in the first quarter when true freshman Boyd took a handoff on a jet sweep and took off like an F-15. He finished his 33-yard TD sprint with a Reggie Bush-style dive from the 5.
The third evoked the great Larry Fitzgerald. Pitt was down to its final play of the first half when Savage tossed a 34-yard jump ball to the back of the end zone. Boyd reached for the heavens and somehow came down with the ball and a foot in-bounds.
That was Trey Engram's favorite. His daddy chose differently.
“I kind of liked the dive at the end of the run, the jet sweep,” Engram said. “You know what? That's his I-don't-want-to-be-denied. I've told him, ‘If you get tackled inside the 5, that's your fault.' ”
Boyd was asked for his choices, in order.
“The one I liked the best was probably (the catch) at the end of the half,” he said. “Then the real deep pass, then the run.”
Man, it was hard to watch this game without wondering what might have been. Can you imagine Boyd meshing his skills with those of receiver Robert Foster and tailback Rushel Shell? Wow.
There's no point in pondering, though. It's all water under the Hot Metal Bridge (one of many Shell burned on his way out of town), so let's focus on the last man standing.
In two career games, Boyd has five rushing attempts for 93 yards and a touchdown, eight catches for 160 yards and a touchdown and three kickoff returns for 71 yards. Those include plays of 51, 34, 33 and 20 yards.
As coach Paul Chryst so eloquently put it, “He's good.”
Engram was pivotal in recruiting Boyd, who could have gone to Notre Dame, Penn State, Wisconsin or lots of other places after a wondrous career at Clairton, where he never lost as a starter (48-0).
“I think all the other (rival) coaches recruiting me were just playing games with me,” Boyd said. “(Engram) was just keeping it real. He wasn't forcing me to come, he wasn't trying to tell me to come or offering me anything. He was just keeping it straightforward.”
Which is to say, Engram and Chryst told Boyd that if he worked hard, he would play right away. Engram wasn't worried about Boyd's work ethic. A superior craftsman of a receiver who finished his NFL career with 650 catches, Engram spotted a kindred spirit in Boyd.
“Over the recruiting process, you get to know these guys pretty well,” Engram said. “I just sensed something special about him. Obviously, he's a talented player. But the type of young man ... he's grounded, he's humble, he's hard-working. When he's with his boys in the crowd, you can't tell who he is because he isn't trying to put himself above anybody.”
Engram admits he was surprised that Boyd took to the position so quickly after a high school career that didn't afford him many pass-catching opportunities. Boyd played a lot of running back and wildcat quarterback.
“He caught me a bit off guard about how quickly he picked up pieces of it — just understanding leverage, releases, depth, coming back to the ball,” Engram said. “Everything you see.”
And that brings up another question, a pleasant one for Pitt fans to ponder as it relates to one Tyler Alexander Boyd: What will we see next?
Joe Starkey co-hosts a show 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 93.7 FM. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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