One of the biggest questions coming into the offseason for Georgia Tech has been who the starting quarterback is going to be on August 29 when they open the season against Clemson.
Right now, there are three horses in the race to replace former starting quarterback TaQuon Marshall, who graduated after last season: redshirt-junior Lucas Johnson, redshirt-sophomore Tobias Oliver, and redshirt-freshman James Graham. Marshall finished his career with 1,836 yards and 15 touchdowns through the air, while also adding 2,189 yards and 29 touchdowns on the ground.
Each of these three quarterbacks has their own edge coming into the season, which will make this a fun competition to watch as we continue into the fall.
Starting with the presumed starter (at least at this point), we have Lucas Johnson. Now a redshirt-junior, Johnson’s edge in the race is his passing profile. Since he arrived on the Flats, he was touted as the best passing quarterback Paul Johnson had recruited. Watching his high school film is a blast as Johnson makes just about every throw you want to see.
The reason he never saw the field much while Johnson was at the helm was because he never got the grasp on the offense. And then this past season, he didn’t get the chance after sitting out the entire season with a foot/ankle injury.
Next up is Tobias Oliver, who very nearly finished last season as the starter. Oliver’s edge is obvious. He brings the most in-game experience of all of the quarterbacks, despite only playing in one season. While not doing much passing (7-of-16, 167 yards, 2 TDs), Oliver was other-worldly when he had the ball in his hands. On the ground, Oliver rushed for 876 yards and 12 touchdowns as the back-up quarterback.
Of the three main quarterbacks that were here during the Spring, Graham has the highest ceiling. He has a lot of good qualities you want to see in a quarterback. He’s got a good spin on his passes, he’s not afraid to tuck and run. Given he’s still on the team, I’m not super worried about his academic standing.
Joining these three guys during the summer and fall are true freshmen Jordan Yates and Demetrius Knight. I think Yates is a little more refined coming out of high school, and thus more likely to see time this year, so I’m going to focus more on him.
In terms of potential, I think Yates actually has a bit of an edge on Graham. I don’t know that he’s quite the runner that Graham is—not to say that Yates isn’t a good one—but I think Yates is a better decision-maker as a quarterback. But like Graham, he’s got everything you want in a good quarterback. He’s just got to put it all together.
At this point, I think this competition is Lucas Johnson’s to lose. Of the quarterbacks, I think he is clearly the most refined passer, which will be important for Dave Patenaude’s offense. He is also a solid runner, which will also be featured. Johnson won’t be the only quarterback we see this season, though. It would be a crime not to have some sort of subpackage for Tobias Oliver designed to get the ball in his hands, even if it is some Touchdown Vulture plays.
I also don’t think this competition will end by August 29. I don’t think Patenaude will be afraid to make a change if there’s someone else that earns the job at some point. What’s fun is that this competition will be even more fun next year when Tucker Gleason arrives on campus.