Georgia Tech Looking For Next Quarterback Option
By Zack Shelby
When 2013 Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee transferred to James Madison, it left the Yellow Jackets scrambling for another option. The Yellow Jackets held its first spring practice March 24 with four potential signal callers vying for the lead role.
The front-runner is Lee's former backup Justin Thomas, who appeared in 10 games in 2013 and passed for a modest 131 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. He also contributed 234 yards on the ground and averaged more than seven yards per carry. Thomas' ability to run Georgia Tech's spread-option offense is what could make Yellow Jackets games in Atlanta quite interesting in 2014 if he in fact wins the job.
As of now, it appears it is his to lose, especially since the man in charge of deciding the quarterback considers him the favorite.
"He's played the most," head coach Paul Johnson said of Thomas in an article by Associated Press sports writer Charles Odum. "I would expect him to be a hard guy to beat out."
Thomas' main source of competition likely will be Tim Byerly, a former transfer from Middle Tennessee State who saw limited action in 2013. Byerly, who accumulated 119 yards rushing and two touchdowns last season, had a good relationship with Lee and said his decision to leave was bittersweet.
Thomas and Byerly are followed on the depth chart by freshmen Ty Griffin and Matthew Jordan. Learning the intricacies of the spread-option attack could prove too difficult for Griffin or Jordan's chances to supplant Thomas or Byerly coming into the season. Their best-case scenario for playing time is if they impress in practice and the incumbents falter.
In addition to seeking out its next starting quarterback, Georgia Tech also is looking to replace its top two running backs from 2013 in David Sims and Robert Godhigh. Zach Laskey is Georgia Tech's leading returning rusher. The rising junior amassed 485 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground in 2014, but the team is also intrigued by Travis Custis, a freshman who had to sit out last year to meet NCAA eligibility requirements. The Yellow Jackets will also have to replace three starters from last year's offensive and defensive line. The most notable lineman to leave was Jeremiah Attaochu, who owns the school record with 31.5 sacks, including 12.5 in 2013.
Like many teams in college football, Georgia Tech will deal with turnover heading into the 2014 season. With change comes opportunity, which is something Thomas is looking to take advantage of this spring.
"I'm trying to show I can be a leader and I can go out there and take charge," Thomas said.
Coming off a 7-6 season with Lee at the helm, the Georgia Tech faithful hope Thomas can develop and build upon his limited experience as well as his physical and mental makeup before Wofford makes a trip to Atlanta on Aug. 30 for the Yellow Jackets' 2014 season opener.