It was a relatively ho-hum signing day for Pitt, but Tyler Boyd injected a little bit of drama with his press conference at Clairton High School. Boyd ultimately ended up signing with the Panthers as originally intended, but Paul Chryst and staff had to fend off late runs from Tennessee and West Virginia for Boyd's services.
The story is pretty well known by now, but let's go over a brief recap of what happened here, along with some input from Boyd.
Pitt was originally considered a long-shot for Boyd, but made a late push as the season progressed. He verbally committed to the Panthers Jan. 5 at the U.S. Army All-American Game in San Antonio. Boyd said that, at the time, he was "100 percent sure" about Pitt, but admitted that he would probably still take some visits. The problem was that since there was such a focus on Clairton's winning streak during the season, and the Bears played until middle of December, so there wasn't a whole lot of time for him to take official visits during his season. He wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to commit on national TV, but still wanted to take advantage of the recruiting process. Boyd admitted Wednesday that he wished he had taken those visits before he committed to Pitt.
Boyd ended up taking official visits to West Virginia and Tennessee over the past few weeks. While Chryst said the staff and Boyd had "good dialogue" with Boyd during the process, I'm sure the staff wasn't too pleased with their prized recruit taking officials elsewhere.
"I didn’t think they really enjoyed hearing that [I was taking visits,] but we’re loyal enough to tell them what we’re doing," Boyd said. "We weren’t trying to hide anything. We were just trying to let them know that we were seeing other places. Our season lasted 16 weeks, so we didn’t really have time to take other official visits."
Boyd said the specific factors that made his decision difficult were West Virginia's offense and the general atmosphere at Tennessee. When he got back from Tennessee, Boyd essentially went into lockdown mode and battled with the decision.
"It’s been real stressful for me, on the inside of my mind," Boyd said. "When it blew up, I just really wasn’t answering nobody’s calls. No recruiters, no sportswriters, nobody. I wasn’t even talking to my mom for a day because she was making me real stressed about it."
Boyd eventually said he sat down with everyone who played a role in his recruitment, including his mother, his coaches and his teammates Terrish Webb and Titus Howard, who took visits to Toledo but ended up staying committed to Pitt. Ultimately, the allure of playing with his long-time teammates won out over other factors.
"This is my family," Boyd said. "I grew up with these boys since first grade. They’re the only guys I’ve been playing with since then. I just think I’m more comfortable staying with them through college and dominating at the next level with them."
Boyd said he got calls from all three schools over the past week, but only picked up the phone for one person: Pitt wide receivers coach Bobby Engram.
"He’s been loyal to me," Boyd said of Engram. "He’s been there since day one. I talked to him at least every week. Our relationship was great and I couldn’t just leave him like that."
On Engram's side of things, he said he didn't push for anything over the last week and let Boyd make his own decision. He said he touched base with Boyd on Facebook a few times, but that was it. Then, Tuesday night, Engram said he and Boyd had a good talk where Boyd re-affirmed his commitment to the Panthers.
"The last week I kind of backed off," Engram said. "I just wanted to give him some space to think. He had a lot of people coming at him and he was getting a lot of information thrown at him. Outside of the home visit I did with pretty much our whole offensive staff, I didn’t have much contact with him."
On that offensive staff visit, one of the big selling points was the various ways the Panthers could use Boyd in their offense. At Clairton, Boyd does a little bit of everything from receiver to running back to Wildcat work out of the shotgun, and he said all three things were on the table at Pitt. Chryst was a little more hesitant to include the Wildcat — something he has never really used in his offense — but said it was important to properly utilize a player of Boyd's talent.
"I think our job, for any player, is to find ways to get them involved in the offense," Chryst said. "Certainly we will exhaust every way we can for our players to get them involved in the offense."
While the past few weeks might have felt like a roller coaster for Pitt fans (not to mention the staff), it's important to remember that Pitt got a guy in Boyd that most people felt they had no chance with as recently as September. He'll fill a position of need at receiver and, despite the late dramatics, ends up as one of the most important recruits in this class.
So important that, after Chryst ran down the list of recruits at his signing day press conference Wednesday, the first question was, "Were you ever nervous you might not get Tyler Boyd?"
Chryst responded with, "Not at all," followed by a smirk and, "But until you get everyone..."