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Quarterback Position Wide Open At Georgia Tech

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Now that Vad Lee has bolted for James Madison, the Yellow Jackets must decide between signal-callers Justin Thomas and Tim Byerly. Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images.
Now that Vad Lee has bolted for James Madison, the Yellow Jackets must decide between signal-callers Justin Thomas and Tim Byerly. Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images.

When Georgia Tech held its first spring practice in March, the Yellow Jackets were looking for a starting quarterback to take over from Vad Lee, who had transferred to James Madison. At the time, four quarterbacks were in contention to run coach Paul Johnson's option attack. The list included two freshmen in Ty Griffin and Matthew Jordan, Tim Byerly, a transfer from Middle Tennessee State, and Justin Thomas, who appeared in 10 games last season and is the odds-on favorite to win the job because of his experience.

But Byerly also saw action last fall and he may have narrowed the gap in the experience department during Georgia Tech's spring game on April 18. With Thomas held out as a precaution because of a shoulder injury suffered in a recent scrimmage, Byerly had the opportunity to showcase his skills.

After stalling on his first three possessions, he got the offense moving and impressed Johnson.

“He’s a tough kid,” Johnson told the Associated Press. “He doesn’t mind running the ball and putting his head down, so I think he’s got a chance to help us.” 

It wasn't all roses for Byerly, who was working on a long drive when he coughed up a fumble that was returned 86 yards for a touchdown. But to his credit, he opened the third quarter by orchestrating a 16-play, 77-yard touchdown march lasting nearly nine minutes. He kept the drive alive with solid reads on a number of option plays.

“The second half, that first series, we ran it pretty much exclusively down the field,” Johnson said. “We did a pretty good job with that.”

Thomas, who was dressed for the game, worked closely with Byerly, asking him what he saw on certain plays, which suggests a friendly competition, at least on the surface.

“I think that’s great and a testament to Justin and his character that he’s not out there participating in the spring scrimmage and he’s still there helping me out,” Byerly said.

Whether Byerly did enough remains to be seen.

Johnson said Thomas will be hard to beat out, but added that Byerly has "got a chance to help us."

More than three months remain before the season starts, and that time will determine if a potential Yellow Jackets' quarterback controversy has wings.