With the Power Five conferences completing their respective media days and all of the worn out coach speak recycled for one more year, let me provide a new term on an age old football phrase. For example, every season after a standout player departs the program the first question asked by the media at these sessions: “How are you going to replace the production of your all time leading rusher or passer?” The retread answer provided each time is equally as lame; “we will have to use a committee approach as no single person can replace the production of player X and all of his school records.”
Given the sudden departure from the Yellow Jacket program by QB Vad Lee to JMU an inevitable question arises: “how are we going to replace him?” I can tell you this much, the QB by committee approach is being replaced by the new term just invented for this situation: QB by Commitment!” What that essentially means is that GT has two (2) QB’s who are not only committed to running the triple option, but they have the track record to prove it.
Justin Thomas was originally committed to Nick Saban at Alabama as an athlete but wanted to play QB. I give Nick credit for having the integrity to be honest with the State of Alabama 100 meter champion when he told Justin he was going to be a WR or DB. So Justin Thomas de-committed from BAMA to enroll at the Institute to play QB in an offense that he apparently knew ran the triple option. Imagine that.
Follow that up with Tim Byerly who gave up his scholarship at MTSU to enroll at GT as a walk on. Although Tim Byerly was a very successful high school player and led his team to a state championship, just like Justin Thomas he too knew that the Yellow Jackets utilized the triple option. After showing his desire to learn the offense, Tim Byerly was rewarded with a scholarship after Vad Lee left the program. So now these two Committed QB’s will have to somehow fill the 45% completion numbers registered by Vad Lee.
Can that startling number be matched by these two committed QB’s? Let’s just say that Mr. Byerly has already eclipsed that number based on his training camp highlight pass completion shown 24/7 on ESPN to DeAndre Smelter last August. More importantly he runs hard and likes contact. It was fun watching him put his head down and churning out yardage in a rain storm last spring. Justin Thomas showed last season he runs fast, in fact very fast. No doubt the coaching staff is expecting him to also exceed the completion percentage of the now departed Mr. Lee.
The bigger question about whether they have any desire to run the triple option offense has already been categorically answered in their decisions and reasons to come play football at GT. Apparently the triple option is; “Their Thing!” Thank you both because nothing is more important to the team, coaches, and fan base, than student athletes who want to be here; compete; and run the offense.
I remember a long time ago there was a coach at the University of Oklahoma who ran the wishbone offense with some success winning several conference and national championships. He had a QB who was starting as freshman and doing quite well until he was injured then replaced by another option QB named Jamelle Holieway, a true freshman who took over mid-season and led them to the 1985 National Championship. For those interested Holieway was smaller than Justin Thomas.
After recovering from his injury and the fact that Mr. Holieway had just led the Sooners to the National Championship, the injured QB decided to transfer to another school and Coach Switzer called up the coach at UCLA and said he had a QB that would be perfect for the Bruins. So he transferred to the west coast and did quite well. In fact he went on to become the # 1 pick in the NFL draft by the Dallas Cowboys, win several Super Bowls, and became an analyst for NFL games.
Is Vad Lee destined to become the next Troy Aikman? Who knows? All anyone knows is that the game of football is full of interesting stories about players and how they arrived at their schools and what they were able to achieve. Ultimately the success of any player depends on many factors outside of their control. That is why you need to have players who are committed to the program and not worry about those who aren’t.
So as the team begins camp for the 2014 season the Yellow Jackets have two QB’s committed to running this offense. Given that Paul Johnson said he didn’t run the option much last season, to me that limited the effectiveness of the offense by running a scaled down version that was essentially; plain vanilla. This season we will see lots of triple option from both of these QB’s. So the question is: would you rather have a bowl of plain vanilla ice cream or a full- fledged ice cream sundae with triple fudge, whipped cream, and nuts? Good luck Vad and Go Jackets!