Panthers football searching for identity in ACC

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 13, 2014 at 12:02 pm •  Published: August 13, 2014
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PITTSBURGH (AP) — Tyler Boyd is used to the attention that comes with being among the best players on the football field.

Still, the Pittsburgh sophomore wide receiver's stellar 2013 season — when he set school freshman marks in receptions (85), yards receiving (1,174) and touchdowns (seven) — wasn't enough for him to generate much buzz. Boyd didn't make the preseason All-ACC team.

But neither did any other Panther. And Boyd and his teammates noticed after they were picked to finish near the bottom of the ACC's crowded Coastal Division.

"We know that people aren't talking about us," Boyd said. "But it's up to us. We walk around and we tell each other, 'We're not the seventh best team in the ACC, we're one of the top two or three.' But we can't just say it. We've got to go out there and do it."

The Panthers had an uneven debut in their new conference home after splitting from the Big East. The same team that beat eventual Coastal Division champion Duke and stunned Notre Dame also stumbled against Navy and North Carolina. A victory over Bowling Green in the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl left them at 7-6 for the second straight year.

While coach Paul Chryst enters his third season with his program stable — no coaching changes, no conference switches and no glaring offseason issues — Pitt still has yet to gain much traction. It might be a good time to start.

"I've been telling a couple other people, as proud as we are to be members of the ACC, our goal and objective is to make an impact on it," Chryst said. "We're certainly not there right now."

The schedule is hardly intimidating. No Florida State. No Louisville. There will be plenty of chances for the Panthers to prove the prognosticators wrong and prove something to themselves.

"We're not where we want to be," Chryst said. "But I sure appreciate and enjoy going through and facing that challenge with this group of guys and for every challenge there's an opportunity."

LET BOYD BE BOYD: Boyd quickly delivered on his considerable promise last fall, providing the Panthers with the kind of explosive playmaking at wide receiver they hadn't seen since Larry Fitzgerald was hauling in catches a decade ago.

Yet the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Boyd is no longer one of the ACC's best kept secrets. He will be the focal point of opposing defenses, leaving it up to Chryst to find ways to keep Boyd involved. The way Chryst looks at it, there are worse problems.

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