For the past two seasons, star wide receiver Tyler Boyd has been an asset for Pitt in the return game. Head coach Pat Narduzzi says that won't change this season and Boyd will again be involved in special teams.
When asked if he'll use Boyd on returning kicks, Narduzzi was pretty clear. "No question about it," Narduzzi said. "He did it last year and did a great job. I sat there and watched him return punts last spring and this fall so far and I don't think he's ever dropped one."
This year, however, he might have more help. Also back there (at least on Day 1) was true freshman Jordan Whitehead, per the Post-Gazette. Narduzzi did temper expectations a little when he didn't confirm that Whitehead would be used there going forward, but he's at least had a taste of special teams play so far in camp.
Whitehead is, of course, extremely talented and can help in the return game. It's not a given that he'll be lining up back there and much of it will depend on how comfortable the coaches are with how he performs in camp. But the idea of a Boyd-Whitehead combo returning kicks and punts should be frightening for opposing teams.
I'm all for involving Whitehead here, too. It's a great way to get him onto the field and if he doesn't start at safety, he'll want to make the most of his time out there.
In his career, Boyd has returned 35 kickoffs. While that was his primary role in special teams as a freshman, last year, he became more of a punt returner as well. He didn't return a punt for a touchdown as he did in 2013, but upped his involvement, returning 16 punts in 2014 to the three he returned as a freshman.
I've always been on the fence about using Boyd as a return man and that's remains the case again this season with no real proven No. 2 receiver. I felt that way last year, too, but at least as a freshman in 2013, the team had senior Devin Street. The team will now trot Boyd out there despite an extremely unproven receiving corps.
Still, I get it and you can't fault Narduzzi here. Most coaches would probably do the same thing in his shoes given Boyd's history as a returner. He's simply too big of a weapon and the thought is to get him involved as much as possible. Pitt, too, almost has to be in the business of taking some chances, right?