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2016 Position Previews: Quarterback

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Justin Thomas leads the way for 2016, but what should fans expect to see behind him moving forward?

Countdown to Kickoff: 61 Days

As our 100 Days to Kickoff series continues to tick down, we begin our position previews to provide an in-depth look at who will be on the field for the Yellow Jackets this year. Each position has seen some old faces leave and new ones take their place. This week is all about becoming more familiar with the depth chart and getting an idea of what to expect out of each position group this fall.

2016 Position Previews: Quarterback

Who's Gone?

The Jackets lose two scholarship players at the position. Only one of those players is no longer on the team as Tim Byerly was denied his petition for a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA. Byerly was a key player for Georgia Tech during his tenure here as he served as the primary backup to Justin Thomas. The quarterback transferred to Georgia Tech after a redshirt season at Middle Tennessee State. Prior to that, Byerly was named the AJC All Classification Player of the Year out of Chattahoochee High School.

During Byerly’s time with the Jackets, he could be described as a reliable, tough leader who was always ready to play when his name was called. Tim could also be described as a "Touchdown Vulture" after the 2014 season saw him frequently come in during short yardage and goal line packages. During this 2014 season, Byerly proved that he was more than capable to carry the offense in the event of an injury to Justin Thomas. Unfortunately, his 2015 season was cut short during game prep for Tulane in the second week of the season. There is no doubt in my mind that Byerly would have proven to be a steadying force for the offense during some of the struggles of last season.

Christian Campbell, a three star redshirt freshman athlete from Ponchatoula, LA, asked to switch positions before the spring began. Campbell practiced at safety during the spring and going into the summer. Christian has been recognized for his athleticism and potential at his new position. Look for Campbell to do big things on the defensive side of the ball sooner rather than later.

Who’s New?

There are three new faces at the Quarterback position going into 2016. The position only returns two existing players in Justin Thomas and Matthew Jordan, so adding more bodies to the mix was a must.

TaQuon Marshall moved from A-Back to QB during the spring this year. It had been rumored for a while that this position change was going to take place. Marshall played quarterback at Harris County High School in Hamilton, GA, and he was rated as a three star athlete by Rivals. Marshall spent the 2015 season at A-Back and was actually pressed into playing time as freshman. He played in nine games and finished the year with 58 yards on eight carries rushing and 76 yards receiving on three catches with a touchdown. The spring came with a request from Coach Johnson to try out the quarterback position. Marshall, with all things considered, had a very solid spring. He showed the sort of athleticism and quickness that we have seen out of the position with Justin Thomas leading the Jackets. With some more development throwing the ball and making his base reads, Marshall could prove to be a major factor in the 2017 QB competition.

Jay Jones was a January add in the 2016 recruiting cycle and one of two QBs total to be added in January this class. Jones committed on 1/17/16 as a three star (Rivals) athlete out of McAdory High School in McCalla, AL. Jones is one of those athlete types of QBs that we have recruited with CPJ that tend to move to a new position eventually. For comparison’s sake, his future looks similar to the most recent QB commit to switch positions in Christian Campbell. Jones is a dynamic athlete and could be a potential future playmaker at QB if he stays at the position. Jones runs tough with the type of running ability and quickness that can create in small spaces. He shows a decent arm but needs to work on his accuracy and throwing receivers open.  Jones does show a high top end speed and an ability to create separation. His athleticism will serve him well at Tech.

Lucas Johnson was the second QB add in January during the 2016 recruiting cycle. Johnson committed to Tech on 1/26/16 as a three star (Rivals) quarterback out of Mt. Carmel High School in San Diego, CA. That’s right. Lucas was rated as a quarterback by the major recruiting services rather than an athlete. Lucas Johnson is a 6’3 prototypical dual-threat signal caller that has the potential to succeed in various offenses and packages. Johnson works in the offseason with former NFL first rounder Akili Smith, but do not get a bad feeling about this due to our most recent QB to meet with an offseason coach. Smith and Johnson are working on what Lucas will be doing here at Georgia Tech while increasing his efficiency across the board as a passer and option QB. Johnson shows a fairly live arm and an ability to make a wide variety of throws. He knows how to throw the receiver open and hit his teammates all over the field. As a runner, Johnson lacks the small space quickness of a JT, but he still has speed to turn the corner. He is a runner that shows enough elusiveness to be effective at the college level. Johnson has a vast skill set to work with as he comes into Georgia Tech.

Projected Depth Chart

  1. Justin Thomas, Senior
  2. Matthew Jordan, Redshirt Sophomore
  3. TaQuon Marshall, Sophomore
  4. Lucas Johnson/Jay Jones, Freshman

What Should Be Expected?

Barring any unforeseen circumstances coming into play, Justin Thomas will be leading the charge for Georgia Tech going into the 2016 season. Thomas will be a senior this fall after some incredible highs and recent lows here at Tech. He will be looking to close out his career here on a high note.

The bigger story for fans this year will be to pay attention to the battle going on behind Thomas. Matthew Jordan, a sophomore from Jackson, AL, comes into the year as the backup at the position, but he will be pushed by Marshall, Johnson, and Jones fairly early and often. Jordan is poised to take over the Byerly role in the offense this year after being forced to switch back to the QB position from AB after Tim’s injury last fall. Jordan had enough good moments as a redshirt freshman to monitor his development for another year. He was forced into some difficult positions and performed adequately in these spots. Jordan has to be more careful with the ball and learn to rely on his teammates more as he continues to develop. Matthew is truly a team player for Georgia Tech. He is always willing to make whatever move necessary to help the team. He displayed this last season with his move to AB and subsequent move back to QB.

Expect TaQuon Marshall, Lucas Johnson, and Jay Jones to all redshirt the 2016 season barring an injury to either QB at one or two on the depth chart. All three quarterbacks need time to learn the system and adjust to the daily grind of the position at Georgia Tech. It will be interesting to see who wins out the third spot in the rotation as this may provide an early read on the main competition for Matthew Jordan going into 2017. Expect some hype to continue to build for both Marshall and Johnson this fall. Aside from that, Jordan will serve as the short yardage and goal-line QB for the Jackets to continue to add experience and snaps to his repertoire. This will also take away some unnecessary hits for JT. Justin Thomas should be more comparable to the 2014 version that got everyone excited about the possibilities of what he could deliver us. Going into a third year as a starter and another year of experience with the current skill position guys, Thomas is primed to have a big bounce back season. The 2016 season will largely depend on what Thomas is able to accomplish under center, and that is something to be thrilled about. A 2014 style Justin Thomas could lead a major turnaround and improvement from the lows of 2015.