Editor's Note: Front Paged from the FanShots earlier this afternoon.
Today, in order to get away from the talks of NCAA sanctions and whatnot, I'd like to turn your attention to the upcoming football season and what we'll be seeing on the field. I'd like to do a comparison of the players available to us at several positions, but this took me over a week to put together (in several 5-10 minute sessions), so I'm not sure how many position groups I'll get to. I'll do the most important positions first so it won't matter if I don't get to all groups before fall practices start up.
Probably the most important position battle this summer has been the quarterbacks. We have a seasoned veteran who has played okay, but hasn't performed up to the level of his predecessor. We have a young, redshirt freshman that is more athletic, but he doesn't have near the experience, and mistakes will be expected if he starts this season. After the end of last season, where Tech's Achilles heel was redzone turnovers and ineffective passing, more mistakes from a freshman will probably put the team back a little. Finally, a true freshman is coming to campus that has shown the skills to be a great quarterback in this offense, but he's so unproven, no one is sure what to expect when he starts going against real competition.
Tevin Washington (RS Junior, 6-1, 205)
In his seven appearances of 2010 (including three starts), Washington ran 88 times for 383 yards (4.4 yards per carry average) and completed 41.7% of his passes for 376 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. While not spectacular, he performed admirably during a tough four-game stretch at the end of the season after Joshua Nesbitt went down with a broken arm against Virginia Tech. I wouldn't say he lost us any of the games in which he started, but he didn't take control of the games and put together some plays to win them either. He won the starting job during the spring with his consistency and ball security, although few fans saw these traits because Washington performed poorly during the T-Day game. Coach Paul Johnson and others attributed this to a knee injury from which Washington was recovering, so we'll have to see how and if this affects his performance in the fall.
Pro(s): Experience, Decision Making, Ball Security
Con(s): Passing Efficiency, Average Athletic Ability
Synjyn Days (RS Freshman, 6-1, 212)
After taking a redshirt year in 2010, Days has pushed Washington for the starting spot all spring. The coaches have said that he has not been consistent this spring, but the fans have seen what he can do when he performed well during the T-Day game, leading the second-team offense (both on the ground and through the air) to a 21-7 win over the Washington-led first string offense. On the other end of the spectrum, he played poorly a scrimmage early in the spring, fumbling the ball, slipping several times, and showing little pocket presence. The fall practices will allow him to give one final push for the starting job, and the outcome could affect Tech football for the next several years.
Pro(s): Athletic Ability
Con(s): Experience, Consistency
Check out this video that highlights Days' running ability from high school:
Synjyn Days Highlights
Vad Lee (Freshman, 6-1, 195)
The highly touted, freshman, quarterback of the future is always a popular guy on campus, but is Vad Lee all that we've hyped him up to be? In high school, he really put on a show with his athletic ability and leadership. The hype machine got fed more this summer when Lee performed well in 7-on-7 passing drills. Will he really live up to the hype and come in and outperform both Days and Washington, or will he be a typical freshman and need time to develop both physically and mentally? An intern at my work is a nose guard in North Carolina and went to several camps with Lee. The one thing he said to me was that Lee needed to get used to being hit more, that he'd get rattled if someone gave him a couple shots early. I couldn't see any of this in the highlights to verify, but the intern also said that he was the best player at camp and that he didn't look forward to facing him.
Pro(s): Athletic Ability, Leadership
Check out this (rather lengthy) video that includes highlights that showcase both Lee's running ability and his passing acumen.
Vad Lee Highlights
The other three players that could be listed as a quarterback come September are Demond Smith (Freshman, 6-0, 173), David Sims (RS Sophomore, 6-0, 218), and Darryl Dickey (RS Freshman, 5-10, 203). Smith and Sims are listed as players who could be playing at defensive back and B-Back, respectively. Smith has great speed and agility, but lacks great passing ability. He will certainly be redshirted this season, and may never be a factor at quarterback if moved to DB. Similarly, Sims is a skilled runner, but his passing ability is relatively enigmatic, having not attempted a pass in his limited playing time in 2010. However, he is a very effective runner, gaining 58 yards and a score on just seven attempts. That has prompted Paul Johnson to test his abilities at B-Back just so he has a chance to see the field. However, that position is just as crowded as (if not more than) the quarterback position. If he doesn't play at B-Back, he could very well be at quarterback to provide depth, especially if Lee is redshirted in 2011. Dickey, a walk-on in 2010, may never see the field at Tech, but stranger things have happened (everyone remember Gardner Webb?). I know nothing of his ability, but perhaps others do because he played in the T-Day game.
So, who will start this season? Washington provides a higher floor with his experience and grasp of the offense. Days has a higher ceiling, but will he reach it this year or would it take a couple more years before he can be trusted with the offense? Lee looks to have everything we want from him, but would it be best for the program to redshirt him this season and let him take over at some point in the future? Keep in mind, if Lee were to start this season, neither Washington nor Days would likely ever see the field as a starter.
My prediction is that Washington will start in 2011 with Days being the primary backup. Sims and Dickey will probably be the third and fourth quarterback, respectively. Sims will probably play a dual role all season, only coming into a game in an emergency. Vad Lee will probably be redshirted to give him an extra season figuring out the offense and maturing. Those are my thoughts, and I'd like to hear your opinions on this subject...hopefully some will disagree and we can have some good discussion.