Over the next several days, we will be taking a look at each of the positional groups of the 2014 Yellow Jackets and breaking them down for you. The series starts today with the Vad-less quarterback rotation, who is going to surprise a lot of people this fall.
Quarterbacks have certainly been on the brain here at FTRS these past few weeks. We've been dissecting the position every which way: historically, statistically, and even computationally (seriously - it's not nerdy if it's football, right?), but all for good reason. As we've seen, our quarterback's style of play largely defines our offense throughout the season.
In what was initially met with widespread dismay and interpreted by some as an omen of the buyout of Paul Johnson, Vad Lee’s departure from the program has since diminished in perceived impact. His experience and leadership will be sorely missed, but after lengthy analytics it has been determined that he wasn’t the world-beater we all made him out to be. His questionable decision-making and footwork combined with the failure to run the offense effectively in tight spots were made all too clear once game film was examined critically. To clarify, this is not an attack on Vad – he was a fantastic student athlete, a positive presence on campus, and a great representative of Georgia Tech off the football field, one of the best I have seen in my years of supporting the Jackets.
Redshirt freshman Ty Griffin, who started for the gold team in the spring game after Justin Thomas was declared out, has also left the program. With two quarterback transfers in the offseason, the position is thin for the Jackets.
#11 Matthew Jordan, 6-2 204 lbs. Jordan is a highly-talented true freshman who we were lucky enough to catch glimpses of in the spring game. He is a dual-threat at quarterback and was looked at by Alabama, Auburn, and Missouri among other schools after committing to Tech. With the recent quarterback attrition this offseason, Jordan could very well see his redshirt pulled. He is expected to be the third string this fall.
Projected Depth Chart
Projected Starter: #5 Justin Thomas, 5-11 185 lbs, redshirt sophomore. For those of you who don’t know, Justin was initially recruited by Alabama's Nick Saban to play DB for the Crimson Tide; however, wanting to play quarterback, he chose to commit to Tech. He is generously listed at 5'-11" (I've stood next to him in an elevator before, and he was barely taller than me – I’m 5’-8").
As you can see from the video above (which you’ve probably already watched a dozen times like me), Justin has a TON of speed - without a doubt, he is the fastest QB we have had in the Paul Johnson era. Another big thing that jumps out at you, though, is his small size. He was ruled out of his first appearance as the first string quarterback at the spring game with a shoulder injury too - durability remains both a question and a concern.
Justin’s passing skill has yet to be thoroughly tested, but from what we’ve seen, he appears to be fairly accurate at short- to mid-range. In the BYU and Clemson games, he led a couple of touchdown drives in garbage time with a combination of quick passes and decent option play. We haven’t seen many short routes in the Paul Johnson era: will CPJ focus more on the short pass? We'll just have to wait and see.
Projected Second String
#18 Tim Byerly, 6’0" 215lbs, redshirt junior. Byerly, a transfer from MTSU, is believed to be in a close second place with regards to the starting job competition. Byerly is built solid and runs hard, which should provide a refreshing contrast from Justin’s speedy and evasive running style when we need to pound the ball. Byerly had a great spring game, where he showed off both his arm and his running ability (101 rushing and 2 TD, 69 yards passing).
In limited action last season, Byerly proved that he is capable of running this offense well. In the waning moments of the Miami game, Byerly capped off an impressive drive with a touchdown run against the #14-ranked Hurricanes in which he had rushes of 18, 17, and 15 yards. Should Justin need a break or the offense need a spark, Byerly has shown he is a competent backup who should see the field a good bit this fall.
Projected Third String
Matthew Jordan. The last QB to play as a true freshman was Jaybo Shaw in 2008, preceded narrowly by Joshua Nesbitt in 2007. The talent is definitely there; can we expect to see some late-game big plays this fall from Jordan like we saw from Nesbitt in 2007?
(Fun fact: this was my first Georgia Tech game I ever went to. Tashard Choice threw a touchdown and Travis Bell kicked a game-winning field goal. And I saw it all from the front row of section 101. What a great day that was.)
Despite the loss of last year’s starters, this year’s quarterback position could potentially outplay the 2013 rotation of Vad and Justin. Byerly is a formidable backup, and Justin has a year of experience under his belt. Should we ever need our third string, we have an athlete there as well; he’s not game-proven, but sometimes true freshmen surprise us when we least expect it. In all, this is one of the positions I’m looking forward to watching the most.
Will Matthew Jordan see the field this fall? How will this year's quarterback rotation's stats compare to last year's?