Jordan Yates should probably not start the first game of next year. Opening your career as a true freshman against Clemson with an iffy offensive line is a recipe for disaster and could stunt his growth by being a bloodbath. However, once the season schedule and season settles in a little bit, Jordan Yates should be the one starting games.
The first reason is pretty simple. Georgia Tech does not have any current quarterbacks who seem like they’d be able to play this system after just one offseason. Tobias Oliver who has returning quarterback experience really struggled to throw the ball and only excelled with a limited flexbone system. He already seems to have fallen behind in the depth chart. Behind him are Lucas Johnson and James Graham. Graham profiles similarly to Oliver in that his best role looked to be running the triple option, not necessarily dropping back and throwing the ball. If he shows some arm talent then he could step into this slot as a mobile quarterback, but his throwing would need to be better than advertised. Lucas Johnson profiles as the best returner for new offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude’s system given his superior throwing and did look the best in the spring game. That being said he has had some injury issues and doesn’t have much extra experience on the field or any extra experience with this offense.
The second reason is that Yates is good, really good. He led Milton to the 7A title last year in Georgia and in doing so showed off a lot of skills that would help him succeed early on in his college career. He has good mobility and is solid throwing on the run. That gives him the all-important ability to extend plays and gives more play-calling flexibility on getting the quarterback out of the pocket where he will be a target with this offensive line learning a new system. He also looks great on short passes. I expect Patenaude to utilize a ton of 1-read quick slants and outs to mitigate pass rushes all season. While Yates originally committed to play for Paul Johnson and the flexbone, Geoff Collins kept him in the class for a reason. He will be a good college quarterback in Geoff’s system.
The final reason is that the game has changed. Until a few years ago true freshmen quarterbacks were a novelty. Nowadays they are all over the place. And winning. Georgia Tech doesn’t have to look far to find true freshmen succeeding at quarterback. Just look at Jake Fromm, Trevor Lawrence, or Tua Tagovailoa. Now obviously all of those quarterbacks came in at better situations and there have been plenty of burnouts, but immediate success is not necessary. Struggles as a freshmen can lead to improvement as a sophomore and beyond. Seeing a true freshman come in and succeed, even if conditionally, can also galvanize a team, like Brock Purdy at Iowa State last year.
Geoff Collins knows that this team is going to be nearly a clean slate this year. With few exceptions every player is going through a major scheme and program change. He has a chance to start the building early and he should do that by giving Jordan Yates a chance to start this year.