There’s no shortage of competition for the QB position heading into 2017 on The Flats. In the spring game, we saw Taquon Marshall, Jay Jones, and Lucas Johnson all play meaningful snaps. Each showed their unique abilities in running the offense. However, despite a foot injury suffered in the spring, Matthew Jordan enters the season as the projected starter to replace Justin Thomas.
The single biggest reason for this is experience. It’s no secret that Paul Johnson likes to go with the steady hand, even if the player doesn’t have as high an upside as those behind him. The spread option often just needs someone to make the correct pre-snap reads, the correct option choices, and not try to do too much in order to gain yards and put points on the board.
Jordan showed his steady hand backing up Justin Thomas last season. He was often used in goal line situations due to his bruising style of running, which accounts for his 6 touchdowns. On the season, he rushed 65 times for 243 yards at 3.7 ypc. Those are not exactly eye-popping numbers, but remember, he was largely used in short yardage situations.
This brings us to early November of last year, when the Yellow Jackets’ starting QB, center, and B-Back were out for the game while on the road at #14 Virginia Tech. While he only went 2/7 passing, Jordan commanded the ground game and gave the vaunted, Bud Foster-coached Hokie defense all they could handle up the middle. Jordan also broke off a 53 yard touchdown run on a midline option – a play that was rarely used under Thomas due to his stature and capabilities on the perimeter. Jordan showed deftness with the inside read, as well as the size and power to break through the interior of the defensive line.
The Jackets would hang on to resoundingly defeat the Hokies in Blacksburg under Jordan’s leadership. That kind of game experience puts him steps ahead of those challenging him for the position because none of the other QBs on the roster have non-garbage time experience.
The weakness that seems most apparent in Jordan’s game is his passing ability. His drop-backs last season were often not pretty. However, he returns both receivers, both A-backs, and B-back this season, all of whom have been running passing drills with him a couple times a week this offseason.
In this offense, the QB doesn’t need to be Peyton Manning, but he does need to be able to connect on the occasional deep ball. Hopefully Jordan’s passing skills have improved this offseason. If so, the offense will probably look similar to the Joshua Nesbitt-led teams from 2008-2010. There will be more power running, death marches, and the occasional long ball up for grabs. If you’ve watched Tech football since Coach Johnson has been here, you’ve seen how the offense changes around the skills of the quarterback, whether it was Nesbitt, Tevin Washington, or Justin Thomas. The offense will be shaped and called to fit Jordan’s skillset.
Maybe in a different season and schedule, one of the other QBs surpasses Jordan in fall camp. Lucas Johnson has lights-out passing ability and Jay Jones reminds a lot of folks of Justin Thomas when he hits the open field. But with this season’s opener on Labor Day night in the Falcons’ stadium against Tennessee, Coach Johnson will almost certainly go with the experienced and steady hand of Matthew Jordan to lead the offense.