Tom Savage hasn’t taken a live snap since Nov. 13, 2010, but he is on track to return to action on Labor Day for the Pittsburgh Panthers.
Savage was pulling ahead of redshirt freshman Chad Voytik, according to various reports from Panther camp. Pitt head coach Paul Chryst confirmed Savage as Week 1 starter, when the program begins its ACC tenure against defending league champion Florida State. From the official Pittsburgh football Twitter account:
— Pitt Football (@GoPittFootball) August 14, 2013
From Pitt’s official Instagram account, Savage addressed media after Chryst’s announcement:
For Savage, a very long and winding road that traversed the continental United States — twice — has reached an important milestone. But Savage is not yet at his final destination. The 23-year-old redshirt junior is far removed from his last collegiate appearance, and much more so from his days as a four-star recruit at Springfield (Pa.) Cardinal O’Hara.
Savage was one the first big-time recruits Rutgers landed. Greg Schiano built the perennial cellar dweller into a legitimate contender in the years leading up to his signing Savage in 2009, though primarily with unheralded prospects. In inking Savage, Rutgers beat out such noteworthy competitors as Penn State, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida State, whose current head coach, Jimbo Fisher, recruited the quarterback.
Tom Savage’s arrival in Piscataway matched the hype, as Savage played from Day One. He led the Scarlet Knights to a 9-4 finish and bowl game win. His numbers were not stellar — 14 passing touchdowns and seven interceptions, with a 52 percent completion rate — but he exhibited flashes of brilliance that suggested a promising career was ahead of him.
But playing behind the worst offensive line in college football his sophomore season, Savage struggled. The flashes were shrouded in one sack after another. He was benched midway through a disastrous campaign, replaced by Chas Dodd (who has since been replaced with Gary Nova). He transferred to Arizona to play in the pass-heavy, spread offense Sonny Dykes had introduced and Robert Anae continued there.
Savage spent a season redshirting behind current NFL quarterback Nick Foles, but the unraveling of Arizona’s defense and Mike Stoops’ mid-season firing left Savage in a predicament. Whereas Savage and redshirt senior Matt Scott would have been in a heated competition for Foles’ vacated spot had UA retained its system, Rich Rodriguez’s arrival brought with it a new offense; an offense Scott ran in high school.
Now, it would be easy to assume Savage transferred simply because of the implementation of a spread offense given the timing. Savage’s announcement came just weeks after Rodriguez was hired. However, Rodriguez has introduced more of a passing element to the system since coming to UA. Moreover, Michigan recruited Savage as a prep, per Rivals.com.
Rather than schematic concerns, undisclosed family matters led Savage back to the East Coast — nearly to Rutgers. But NCAA dismissal of his hardship appeal quashed a return and sent Savage to Pitt.
That could be great news for the Panthers. In an off-season of unrest, Savage brings the Panther offense an experienced perspective. Though he may have field rust, he did spend his time away as understudy to an outstanding passer in Foles, and last season familiarizing himself with the playbook. Savage also seems to have chemistry with uber-talented wide receiver Devin Street, who praised the quarterback at last month’s ACC media day.
Savage and Street could become the highly potent combination that Savage and Mohamed Sanu showed signs of developing into when each were freshmen at Rutgers.
Tom Savage may not be at the end of his long road, but the path just got a whole lot clearer.