Chad Voytik committed to Pitt during the short-lived Todd Graham era. He made it a point to stay after Graham's departure, and his two-plus years with Paul Chryst have proven to be productive.
Voytik stepped in for an injured Tom Savage during last year's Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, playing the entire second half and rushing for a score to cap a 30-27 win over Bowling Green. He now enters his redshirt sophomore season as the expected starter under center for the Panthers, with a nice little momentum boost carrying him through this offseason.
ESPN.com caught up with Voytik this week to chat about his expectations for 2014.
What's been going on behind the scenes before camp opens next month?
Chad Voytik: We usually throw every day before our workouts and then we'll lift, of course, lift and run, so we're getting in good shape, we're getting stronger and we're working on our timing as well, our mechanics and all that stuff. And then I've tried to really attack the film room as well. I've spent a lot of time with our GAs and stuff, so it's been a really helpful time for me as far as learning and studying opponents' film and stuff, so it's been a really important time for me.
What specifics are you working on?
CV: I'd say No. 1, I'm just trying to continue to work on my feet and to not always escape -- in other words, be able to step up and deliver throws if they're there. So continue to work on that. And you can never get too accurate, so I'm still continuing to drill in that and throw to receivers and stuff and try to get that as well as I can.
Take me back through the Pizza Bowl. We all know what happened. What were the emotions and nerves like for you when Tom went down?
CV: Being a backup quarterback sometimes isn't the easiest thing, and Tom took some nice hits throughout the year. So your stomach drops, you start warming up, it's not a great feeling. And then going into the bowl game I knew he was still a little bit banged up, and I saw him take that shot to the ribs and (he) got up slow. And immediately you're filled with nerves and you're getting anxious. ... It was definitely nerve-wracking at first, but honestly, it's a close game and we all needed to come together closer for the second half. As soon as you get out there it goes away and it's just football again.
Looking back, how much confidence has that given you going into this year?
CV: It was honestly probably the best thing that could happen. Of course (I) never want Tom to get hurt, but just having that little bit of experience when there was an actual game on the line, it wasn't just mop-up duty, it was really key for me I think as far as confidence and leadership and stuff, so (I) definitely carried some momentum over into the offseason and hopefully continue to carry it over.
How do you balance being the No. 1 guy without officially having the title of starter yet?
CV: It's still a competition. Coach Chyrst always says there's nothing bad about competition, in that he always wants us competing, and he would never declare a starter now. And it truly is an open competition right now, so I'm just continuing to work and just staying hungry, because nothing's guaranteed, and continue just to try to work like I am the starter and hopefully I can step into that role.
We all know about Tyler Boyd. Who else do you feel is going to step up in the passing game?
CV: Manasseh Garner's I guess a pretty familiar face, and he's been working really hard. And we have some young guys, we have freshmen coming in working hard. It's tough to pinpoint on one guy. My receiving corps, they've been out there every day with me just working really hard and always eager to work and always asking me if I'm going to throw that day or whatnot, so I really appreciate that out of them. It's helped me a lot, because if they're ready to work then that means even if I don't feel like it I have to be ready to work and then we're all getting better because of it, so it's definitely been good.
The parallels are obviously there on the surface: A Paul Chryst protege, undersized, No. 16. How often do the Russell Wilson analogies come your way? Ever talk to him or Coach about him?
CV: They don't come my way a lot. I've definitely heard it at times, but I always tell Coach Chryst: 'If I can be a successful college quarterback, then go on to win a Super Bowl trophy, then you can start comparing me.' (laughs) I'm always asking him about what Russell did, what Scottie Tolzien did. I always want to hear how they worked and how they approached it, because they all have regrets, they all have things they learned, and I want to know what they learned throughout their experience with him. So I ask him a lot about specifics, like, 'When Russell is put in this position, how would he react?' So different things like that, because it's really interesting to me, and it wasn't too long ago he was coaching him, so I like to hear that stuff.
Going back to when you first signed with Pitt: Why was it important to you to stick with Pitt after the guy who recruited you left? What stood out about Coach Chryst?
CV: The reason I stayed, I think honestly, is because I had already built relationships here. I was already committed for such a long time and I already felt locked in. Yeah, I could've de-committed, but to a certain degree, it wouldn't have been productive for me. I liked everything about Pittsburgh and I liked the people. Coach Chryst being the man that he was, I could tell his honesty, how different he was from the past regime and stuff. So it was just the right thing to do, I felt. He laid out a nice plan, and you just knew from the time he walked in here that he wanted to change things. And it wasn't the same pep talk that every coach comes in with, like ready to change the whole program. He was willing to change it from the inside out, he did it the right way and I think we all saw that.
Seeing Tom's pre-draft stock take the kind of rise it did and ending up in a good situation down in Houston, did you talk to him during that time? And just from your perspective, being close with him and knowing that he went through some of the things you're about to go through, what did you make of all that?
CV: I was so happy for him. If anyone deserves it, it's Tom. Just a great guy. He just got engaged actually. Just a great guy, and I was so happy for him. And yeah, I'm thrilled. I'll be texting him when camp starts or whatever if I need any advice or guidance, because he's always been kind of, not a mentor, but he's always been a really good friend of mine, and he's had the experience. Definitely someone I can lean on when I need words of wisdom.