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Tyler Boyd on Pitt special teams the ultimate risk/reward scenario

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Justin K. Aller

To date, there hasn't been much training camp coverage on Tyler Boyd, which is semi-weird since he's widely considered the team's best player. But there is one significant angle on the Pitt star out there that's worth a mention.

As of now, the Panthers are planning to continue to use Boyd on special teams as a return man on kicks.

Boyd returned a total of 19 kickoffs and three punts last season, so this, understandably is nothing new. The change, however, is that Boyd's importance to the team is certainly increased with the loss of Devin Street.

The upside is potentially huge. Boyd is, flat out, a playmaker - one of the best Pitt has had in recent memory, in fact. The ball in his hands at any time means there's a potential for a big play or even a score, and he proved that last year with a punt return for a touchdown. There's good reason to want him back there and that's especially true considering the team has had some struggles in guys being able to make an impact there while holding onto the ball in some cases.

Then there's the negative.

Because of Boyd's importance to the team, the contrarian point of view is that the team needs him to be healthy - that the risk is not as great as the reward. After all, is it worth it for Boyd to be the target of big hits on special teams for the occasional big play? Despite his talent, after all, large gains on returns aren't all that common. And make no mistake - in the collisions of kickoffs and punts, Boyd will certainly take some strong hits.

Special teams coach Chris Haering spoke about Boyd recently during training camp, and it's clear that he thinks Boyd will be largely protected:

"We look at it just like you would on offense – we are going to block the returns. We’ve got good guys that are out there blocking returns and working their tail off. Our hope is you don’t get free runners and guys that are going to get blown up. Tyler, he is a special kid, and he is excited to do it too. He has 100 percent bought in and is ready to get another chance to make a play for our team. We don’t look at it like that – that we are putting him back there and holding our breath, we put him back there saying ‘Hey, the ball is going to be in his hands and we are going to block it.’"

Most of the time I've got a pretty firm opinion on things like this. But if I'm being honest, it's really difficult to come up with one here. I legitimately see both sides and it could pay off or come back to bite Pitt if he's injured on a play. The flipside is that I like the guts of the coaches to find as many ways as possible to get him the ball. And, I mean, injuries can't be a concern all the time.

This is a really big decision by the staff and at the end of the day, it's fair to say that they've come to the conclusion that the potential reward outweighs the potential risks of putting him back there.

That said, what are your thoughts? Weigh in to the poll I've added below.

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