First we had the post Josh Nesbitt era at QB followed up now by the post Tevin Washington era under Coach Paul Johnson. While everyone desperately wants their true freshmen to step onto campus and lead their team to the BCS National Championship, that is just unrealistic. So while GT fans were demanding that Vad Lee start at QB over Tevin once he enrolled as a frosh back in 2011, as with any college program there is a rather large learning curve that goes along with being successful in college football. Vad Lee will profit substantially from being able to learn from the sidelines while watching Tevin run this offense as the starting QB the past few years.
Unlike Tevin who was thrown into a critical ACC game at Blacksburg after Josh broke his arm back in 2010 Vad was able to develop without being thrown into a contest, let alone a critical ACC game on the road in a noisy environment in a sudden change format. It was important for Vad to get some meaningful game experience snaps last season without the added pressure of being tossed into a contest as the QB due to an unforeseen injury, so he will benefit from growing into the position in a much smoother transition and we should see the positive results of that evolution. If he can continue to play this season like he did on the road at Chapel Hill last season against those Tar Heels when he was a one man show running the offense, then the Yellow Jackets can expect to be very efficient both on the ground and in the air this fall.
For all of the complainers about Tevin Washington let me point out that he is the all time ACC leader in rushing touchdowns for a QB. He also did his very best and worked extremely hard to carry this program on his back well before he was ever expecting to have that burden placed on him back in 2010. The successes of Vad Lee the next several seasons will be in large part due to Tevin staying healthy and affording Vad Lee the opportunity of learning to run this offense without the pressure of having to do it in a critical game on the road for his first time out with zero warning.
I also have the utmost respect for Josh Nesbitt who will not only be remembered as a true Warrior and Competitor at QB during his time on the Flats, but more importantly he was the leader who elected to stay and give Coach Johnson an opportunity to be successful at GT running an offense that he was probably not a great fit for as a QB. That being said it is quite ironic that everyone uses Josh as their poster child example for what they want in a QB running this Paul Johnson triple option offense when he was actually a pioneer and stand up person for staying at Georgia Tech during that difficult transition. Now that Coach Johnson has been able to show the BCS world that this offense can be successful at this level, GT should bring back Josh and acknowledge him at halftime of a game for being an example of everything that Georgia Tech represents both on and off the field.
While Vad has been given the keys to the car at least for the moment, don’t discount this other QB Justin Thomas as he will see significant snaps this season too. I say this to recognize that for the first time since he has become the Yellow Jackets Head Coach, Paul Johnson has experience, quality, and depth at the QB position. One needs to look no further than the situation, or better yet turmoil going on at Texas A & M and the uncertainty at their QB options if the reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel is declared ineligible this fall as a consequence of this autograph-gate investigation.
Recruiting aside the Aggies have nothing in the way of experience at QB on the roster to lead that squad. Before everyone starts crowing about how Johnny Football had no experience either prior to last season what Texas A & M did have was a very experienced offensive line returning that included their mammoth LT being selected second in the NFL draft. That goes a long way in allowing a novice QB to look better than he might have if he was playing behind a line of all redshirt freshmen. I’ll be watching what transpires with that Aggie offense at QB if they have no Johnny Football come opening day.
Getting back to the Yellow Jackets, when was the last time a major BCS team had a state 100 meter sprint champion playing at the QB position? Just the thought of Coach Paul Johnson having a weapon like Justin Thomas at QB just puts a smile on my face thinking about the possibilities that can be employed with his unique knowledge of this offense and ability to call plays in game situations. This is just one of the reasons that every Yellow Jackets fan should be looking forward to this season on the Flats with high expectations. Toss in a very experienced and hopefully healthy offensive line and the potential is present for perhaps the best season offensively from the QB slot alone.
Lest we forget that the best coach in college football, Nick Saban at Alabama, wanted Justin Thomas on his team just not as a QB. That speaks volumes about the play making ability of him as an athlete no matter where he was going to play on the field. Also don’t forget that Justin was not only a long time oral commitment to Bama, but the MVP in the Alabama AAAAAA State Championship Game his team won, as well as the state 100 meter Champion. Nick Saban showed lots of class in telling Justin and his family in advance of him ever signing a national letter of intent that he was not going to be receiving any playing time as a QB. That just opened up the door for Paul Johnson to bring in a great player as more times than not, a high school QB will still want to be playing that same position in college. Expect to see some impressive plays from Justin on the field for GT.
This brings me to that baseball player on the Flats who decided he wanted to give football a shot this season as a wide receiver; Deandre Smelter. While I wanted to mention that impressive one-handed catch highlight that made it to ESPN and probably went viral on the net as well, does anyone know who threw him that picture perfect pass? That’s right; Tim Byerly currently the third QB on the Yellow Jackets roster who spent last season redshirting and learning this offense after transferring in from MTSU. So both Tim and Justin were learning together from the sidelines how to run this Tech offense. It’s nice to know that Coach Johnson has three quality players at the QB position heading into the season as that’s why every team has an 85 player roster.
Tim Byerly is a local kid who led Chattahoochee High School to their first AAAA State Title in 2010 at the Georgia Dome and finished in the top five in both rushing and passing even though he didn’t play a down the entire season in the fourth quarter. He passed for 2,664 yards and thirty (30) touchdowns while finding the time to run for another 1,509 yards and twenty-one (21) more touchdowns. But here is the best part; he transferred to Georgia Tech in 2012 after the Yellow Jackets already had Vad Lee on the roster and Justin Thomas coming in as a QB after Saban said he wanted him to play another position. He has also been doing very well in camp besides getting Deandre Smelter and GT on ESPN’s Sportscenter.
In this current age of watching college football recruiting especially with the QB’s, as soon as some prima donna five stars recruit doesn’t receive the starting QB spot automatically by just enrolling in school and showing up on campus they transfer out faster than the price increase of a gallon of gas. They also generally go down to a FCS school so they can both play immediately as well as having their ego’s stroked.
For a QB to move UP to a BCS school and give away his scholarship by transferring in then paying his own way as a walk on, that really demonstrates to me some character as this is a kid that wants to show that he can play football at this level and isn’t afraid of competition. Regardless of the reasons why he didn’t receive any major BCS offers, who really cares! The player selected # 1 in the last NFL draft from Central Michigan didn’t receive any of those offers either but apparently he can play football. It’s just nice to know that for the first time ever Georgia Tech has three (3) QB’s that can play and with that type of depth now in place for this program moving forward under Coach Paul Johnson there is reason to be excited this coming fall. Go Jackets!