Remember all the hype that Justin Thomas had coming into the 2015 season? Come on, guys. We were talking Heisman, ACC Championship, possible playoff situation and the ceiling for the Georgia Tech football program seemed limitless. 15 weeks later, the Jackets were 3-9 overall and 1-7 in the ACC and the 2015 season was a bust. Remember how bad the 2010 season was when everyone looked at what the team could have looked like? Many Tech fans would have taken that season after Tech was left out of a bowl game for the first time since 1996. So there wasn’t a Heisman trophy. There wasn’t an ACC Championship. And there certainly wasn’t a playoff for Georgia Tech. Thomas certainly wasn’t the reason the offense stalled in 2015, but was he a problem?
We could sit back and recap the 2015 season, but we aren’t. Instead, let’s look ahead at what the 2016 Quarterback situation holds for Georgia Tech. But before we look forward, let’s look back at the quarterbacks Tech played in 2015.
We saw Thomas struggle all season. Some of that was due to poor protection by the offensive line. Some was due to poor play by the backfield and receivers. And, yes, some was due to bad decision making by Thomas himself. Let’s look at Thomas’ stats from 2014 and compare them to last season:
|SEASON||CMP||ATT||YDS||CMP%||YPA||LNG||TD||INT||SACK||RAT||RAW QBR||ADJ QBR|
Ouch. Everything was down. Completion percentage, touchdowns, yards gained, QBR and everything else. Oh, interceptions and sacks were up! Wait- that’s not a good thing either. Thomas struggled. That’s fine and it’s fair. Sophomore slumps happen and I think we saw that he needs a good core of players around him to help the offense operate at a high level. This guy didn’t just start stinking overnight.
Tim Byerly’s injury paved way for the Jackets to see what they had in Matthew Jordan, who impressed me. He didn’t see a lot of action, as he played in just three games after Tulane. He’s not going to unseat Thomas and he’s not the same type of quarterback as Byerly. That being said, I thought he looked good as a freshman to give the Jackets a piece once Thomas graduates in 2017.
Of the quarterbacks that played significantly at Georgia Tech, Byerly is the only one that will be moving on. You can read more on him here.
Here’s my take on Byerly: I thought he was a great quarterback for this system and was the third best that Paul Johnson had at Georgia Tech. If it weren’t for Thomas, Byerly would have been your starter in 2014 and 2015. He wasn’t the same as Thomas, but he was effective. I understand that’s a bold thing to say when he only came in for 18 pass attempts and 70 rushing attempts in his Georgia Tech career, but it’s my opinion nonetheless. Byerly came in and spelled Thomas several times in games and played extremely well. Here is what Byerly’s stat line looked like at Georgia Tech:
Chase Martenson should get a look in the spring to compete for a backup role, as he was injured in April of 2015. 2015 recruit Christian Campbell redshirted last year and should also get a look with Jordan and Martenson at the backup role. Campbell might be the best long term option at Georgia Tech, as some have already asked if he could "be the next great Georgia Tech quarterback." You can read his recruiting recap here.
The Jackets are also bringing in QB prospect Jay Jones as a part of their 2016 recruiting class, and may bring in a second player as well if they are able to get commitments from Lucas Johnson or Deshaunte Jones. Needless to say, it seems as though there are several options for the coaching staff at quarterback for the post-Thomas era.
Depth Chart Breakdown
With Byerly already being absent for most of the 2015 season, the depth chart shouldn’t look much different. Barring something unforeseen, Justin Thomas will be your starter and the backup should feature Jordan as the favorite with Campbell and Martenson being dark horses for the role.
Campbell was a three star recruit from Ponchatoula, LA. You can read a write-up about him as a prospect here. Campbell might be the best option for Justin Thomas long term and I think he’ll be slated to be third string over Martenson, if everything plays out. Sure Jordan looked good in limited action, but what if Campbell can be your backup QB with Jordan getting some time at A-back, a unit that left much to be desired in 2015?
Martenson is a redshirt sophomore walk-on that ran the option at Marist High School and could very well have been the backup last year, had he not been injured in the Spring. Martenson has a chance at the backup quarterback spot, but will most likely open up as the fourth quarterback, unless Campbell struggles in the Spring and beyond.
If you want a deep sleeper to watch at quarterback, TaQuon Marshall is a name that shouldn’t be lost. Marshall played quarterback in high school, where he threw for 1,376 yards with 18 touchdowns and rushed for another 1,436 yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior. Marshall is currently at A-back, but a position change isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
There isn’t a lot of drama with quarterback position in 2016. There will be some drama about the position when you enter the 2017 season, as Thomas departs and there are three worthy guys that are waiting in the wings. Who will be the starter in 2017? It might very well depend on how the backup quarterback situation shapes out in 2016.