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Panthers Look for Balance to Replace Boyd

Tyler Boyd accounted for 91 of Pitt’s 212 total receptions last year. So, aside from that, his departure for the NFL won’t be that big of a deal I guess.

In my opinion, finding a receiver to replace Boyd’s productivity will be the Panthers’ biggest challenge in 2016.

Unless they don’t try.

Which may not be a bad idea.

Pitt has had really good WR’s in the Heinz Field era. They’ve almost always had a “go to guy” on that team. The line of succession year to year has usually been pretty clear.

Between 2000-2005, Antonio Bryant begat Larry Fitzgerald who begat Greg Lee. They all had at least one season of 1,000+ receiving yards. The first two were high draft choices.

From 2009-2015, Tyler Boyd broke records set by Devin Street who followed Jon Baldwin. All three went to the NFL

So what about those three seasons in between? That’s more along the lines of where this WR group is. There doesn’t appear to be a single individual capable of picking up the torch from Boyd.

Two of those years featured Shady McCoy running. And perhaps more importantly, they featured Pat Bostick and Bill Stull (in his first year) trying to pass. So even if Pitt had better options outside than a still rehabbing Derek Kinder, big numbers weren’t going
to the wide receivers.

That 2006 team though? That may be a pretty good model for this group of Panther wide receivers to follow. The team wasn’t great. It only finished 6-6. But it racked up 383 points. That’s a total surpassed just twice since then at the school.

And there are many similarities between the clubs. As is the case with Nate Peterman, the ‘06 Panthers had a returning quarterback in Tyler Palko who was about to embark on his senior year. They had an eventual late round NFL draft choice running back in LaRod
Stephens Howling, as Pitt may have in James Conner and/or Qadree Ollison. And the receivers got it done by committee.

Kinder had 57 catches for 847 yards. Oderick Turner had 44 for 660. And even Marcel Pestano caught 28 for 424. They also combined for 12 touchdowns. Even tight end Steve Buches chipped in for 26/302/4.

The current crop of Panther pass catchers will have to do the same. Because there doesn’t appear to be a lead receiver in the bunch.

Any signs of progress when it comes to finding an alpha male among the bunch was slowed in spring practice as Dontez Ford and Zach Challingsworth spent time injured. And Elijiah Zeise was moved to linebacker. Quadree Henderson, Jester Weah, and Tre Tipton may all contribute as well. But betting on any of those unproven commodities to emerge as a clear cut top option for Peterman would be based on nothing but a hunch.

Relying on the whole to be greater than the sum of the parts at the
receiver position hasn’t been the tradition at Pitt. But that unit ten years ago is an example of when it at least worked once in recent memory. Now Peterman, offensive coordinator Matt Canada and head coach Pat Narduzzi better hope history can repeat itself
a decade later.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker

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