Days to Kickoff: 49 Days
As the 100 Days to Kickoff series nears the midway point, this week will feature a series of position previews across the roster. These articles will go position-by-position to look at players that have departed, players that return from a year ago, new faces at the position, and the overall outlook for the 2017 season. The overall goal is to examine what the depth chart will look like next season and look at realistic expectations for each position group.
All of last week, we spent time looking at the different aspects of the offense and how they would be changing from last season to this season. Now this week, as we officially pass the midway point of our 100 Days to Kickoff, we will be looking at a total overview of the offense. Please feel free to use the links below to catch up on our Position Previews.
Since these sections have all been covered in more depth in the articles linked above, I’m only really going to touch on the more important notes here.
To start, there are obviously a few key departures, with the most important one being quarterback Justin Thomas. Thomas has been at quarterback since the magical 2014 season following the departure of Vad Lee. Ever since then, Thomas came in and just took control of the office. Granted, 2015 was rough for everyone. After a great career, I have no hesitation in saying that Thomas is the best quarterback Paul Johnson has had to date with the Yellow Jackets.
Joining Thomas on this list of key departures are a couple more former starters in B-back Marcus Marshall and center Freddie Burden. Marshall came in as a pretty highly-touted freshman and ended up leading the Yellow Jackets in rushing in 2015. Coming into 2016, he ended up splitting those carries with freshman All-America Dedrick Mills. Before the end of the season, Marshall announced his intentions to transfer and ultimately ended up at James Madison.
Lastly, Burden has been nearly as solid of an offensive lineman as one can ask for. Between his athleticism and his strength, Burden continued a line of really good centers that Paul Johnson has had at Tech, joining Sean Bedford and Jay Finch. Losing him also means losing the leader of the offensive line, so hopefully that position will be filled quickly.
Other Departures: BB Marcus Allen, ABs Isiah Willis and Lynn Griffin, WR Mikell Lands-Davis, and OLs Trey Klock and Eason Fromayan
Despite losing some really good players due to graduation or other reasons, the Yellow Jackets actually have a really solid core of players coming back, specifically at the offensive backfield.
For starters, at A-back, the trio of Clinton Lynch, Qua Searcy, and JJ Green, is returning after having a phenomenal year last season. Most notable among those is Lynch, who averaged a whopping 17.1 yards per touch, while also leading the Jackets with 490 receiving yards. He also accounted for eight touchdowns (six of which covered 40 or more yards).
Moving over to B-back, we have Dedrick Mills coming back, who legitimately could be Georgia Tech’s first 1,000-yard rusher at B-back since Anthony Allen. I say that for two reasons. First, I think he’s the most talented back we’ve had there since Dwyer; and second, we don’t really have much experience at B-back outside of Mills, so we’ll be relying on him a lot more.
Below I’ve listed the complete list of players Tech brought in on offense with its last recruiting class. There are some pretty talented players on here. Most likely to play this season, I believe, are Jerry Howard (due to BB depth) and 2-3 of the offensive linemen (due to OL depth).
Projected Depth Chart
2017 Projected Offensive Depth Chart
|Position||First String||Second String||Third String|
|Position||First String||Second String||Third String|
|QB||Matthew Jordan||TaQuon Marshall||Lucas Johnson OR Jay Jones|
|AB||Clinton Lynch||Nathan Cottrell|
|AB||Qua Searcy OR JJ Green||Xavier Gantt OR Omahri Jarrett|
|BB||Dedrick Mills||KirVonte Benson OR Quaide Weimerskirch||Jerry Howard|
|WR||Ricky Jeune||Jalen Camp||Stephen Dolphus|
|WR||Brad Stewart||Antonio Messick||Jair Hawkins-Anderson|
|LT||Jahaziel Lee||Zach Quinney (or another freshman)|
|LG||Parker Braun||Brad Morgan|
|C||Kenny Cooper||Scott Morgan|
|RG||Will Bryan||Shamire Devine|
|RT||Andrew Marshall||Jake Stickler|
What to Expect
As we draw closer to kickoff against Tennessee, there will be plenty of talk about the answer to that same question we’ve been wondering all season: Who will replace Justin Thomas?
Replacing Justin Thomas as Georgia Tech’s starting quarterback is not an envious position by any stretch of the imagination, but if there were a year where a player would actually want to give it a shot, it’s this year. There are a couple questions on the offensive line, but outside of that, the Yellow Jackets are returning good, experienced players at all of their skill positions, which makes the quarterback’s job a whole lot easier.
Looking at all of this, it really doesn’t matter who ends up as the starting quarterback. They all bring different elements to the game that could all work very well in this offense. Nishant did a really good job summarizing what each quarterback specialized in last week:
[Matthew] Jordan brings the most experience and would open up the midline option game, something that was missing under Thomas;
[Taquon] Marshall is a quick, agile runner who has had plenty of reps with the first-team offense this spring;
[Lucas] Johnson is a gifted passer with great open-field speed who has already shown an aptitude for making option reads;
and [Jay] Jones is the biggest home run threat on the ground, flashing game-breaking speed in the spring game while playing on an injured ankle.
With all of these options, Paul Johnson will be able to make something work, though it will likely be Jordan getting the start come Week 1 with the experience he brings.
Really though, no matter who ends up starting at quarterback this year, the Yellow Jackets are going to have as seamless as possible of a transition moving on from Justin Thomas.
Now, don’t read that as “we’re not going to miss Justin Thomas at all,” because that is the complete opposite of true. Thomas was a fantastic leader on the offense and easily the best quarterback Johnson has ever had at Tech. What I am trying to say is that with all of the pieces Tech has in place, coming in as a new quarterback will be about as easy as it has ever been, except for maybe 2014 when Thomas was handed the reins to the offense.
What do y’all think the offense is going to look like this season?