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100 Days to Kickoff: The Case for Jay Jones at QB

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The redshirt freshman is a human thrill ride waiting to happen

NCAA Football: TaxSlayer Bowl-Kentucky vs Georgia Tech Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

There's a case to be made for going with the most experienced QB on the roster, a guy who already has an ACC win under his belt.

There's a case to be made for giving the QB job to a junior who has a pretty similar skillset to Justin Thomas, thus easing the transition.

There's a case to be made for the best passer of the bunch to get the nod despite his relative youth.

And then there's the last guy—who also happens to be the one who earned the most effusive praise from Paul Johnson (have the last five words ever been written or spoken before?) during spring camp.

Counting Jay Jones out of the race at this stage would not be wise. He may be a redshirt freshman, but he's already flashed a tantalizing playmaking ability and a decent grasp of the offense.

Running Ability

Jones is the quickest and most agile quarterback on the roster—only TaQuon Marshall comes close in that regard. He changes direction effectively and has the best open-field speed in the group. The best way to illustrate is by looking back at the spring game, so let's focus on a couple key plays (video courtesy of the illustrious GT Bob):

Jones backed up Marshall on the first-team offense, but the redshirt freshman made an impact as soon as he entered the game. His second play (30:55 in the video, 11:52 left in the second quarter) was a counter option where safety A.J. Gray attempted to cover both Jones and the pitch man; seeing this as he reached the edge, Jones turned on the jets and picked up a huge gain down the sideline.

It's worth noting that he was playing through an ankle injury at the time, so that wasn't even his top speed. To that end, shortly after the spring game, Johnson made a pretty strong statement when describing Jones's running ability:

That's high praise from someone who just had Justin Thomas under center for three years.

Starting Jones would have a few drawbacks. He's too small for the midline game to be a realistic possibility, and for the same reason, he may have to let another QB (probably Jordan) step in on the goal line. The spring game indicated that he'll need to work on ball security and avoiding getting too adventurous when scrambling.

On the bright side, those first couple drawbacks also applied to Justin Thomas... and he turned out okay in the end. And the last couple can be coached. What can't be taught is raw athleticism, and Jones is unmatched among the Tech QBs in that arena.

Passing Ability

Jones isn't quite on Lucas Johnson's level as a passer, but he can still sling it with power and accuracy. He only had six pass attempts in the spring game, so his high school film is a better point of reference.

The biggest thing that stands out is just how effortless his throws seem to be. He can flick his wrist and send it 30 yards.

One interesting play in the spring game comes with about 0:40 left (1:40:00 in the video). Jones drops back and is immediately flushed from the pocket, but he rolls right to buy time and finds J.J. Green open nearby with room to run. The throw itself isn't the important thing here. His first instinct seems to be to run when pressured, which is common for a young QB in this offense, but on this play he doesn't panic and finds a way to turn it into a big play.

Outlook

Jones is the most dynamic athlete in the mix for Tech in the QB competition. He pairs game-changing speed with plenty of range in the passing game. He still has growing to do as an option QB, but so do all of the candidates in different ways. If Jones gets the nod in Week 1, one thing is guaranteed: he'll be an incredibly fun player to watch on every snap.

This is the first truly open QB competition for Tech since Paul Johnson's tenure began, and regardless of who ultimately wins the starting job, it'll be an entertaining race to the very end.