The countdown to kickoff will shift to position previews over the next couple of weeks as we take a look at who will be “Above The Line” and what their contributions to the team could be this year. Our first position group is the Quarterback and as always will be one to heavily watch.
The starter for the 2019 season, James Graham, and true freshman Tucker Gleason have transferred and are the only two departing QBs. Graham transferred down to Georgia Southern but after missing most of the spring due to personal issues has been listed at the receiver position for the Eagles. Gleason will try to compete for the starting role at Toledo after not recording a pass in his one year with the Yellow Jackets.
That leaves four players listed at QB on the active roster: returning starter Jeff Sims, Jordan Yates, Chayden Peery, and Demetrius Knight. Let’s look at each and see where they will fit this year.
There was much debate on who the starter for the 2020 season against FSU would be and it remained in question until Jeff Sims trotted onto the field for the first snap. Sims won the job from former starter Graham leading up to the season in his first year with the team. He joined the 2020 recruiting class late after flipping from FSU. He is the highest-rated QB Tech has signed since Justin Thomas.
Sims came out looking impressive against FSU driving down the field but did run into some turnover trouble on several drives. That would be a microcosm of his season with athletic throws and rushes coupled with poor ball security. He had 13 passing touchdowns to 13 INTs but the turnovers did reduce slightly as the year went on.
Despite no longer being an option team, Sims led the team in carries and second for rushing yards with 120 attempts for 492 yards. Many of these came on passing plays that broke down from poor pass protection but he was very loose with the ball when running out of the pocket. Another year of development for Sims and his line should see his passing game improve and his turnovers go down.
Even when struggling, the coaches seldom used the backups to replace Sims so I expect him to retain his starting position unless things just really come apart at the start of the season.
Yates was technically the first QB signed by Geoff Collins when he took over as head coach but was recruited initially by Paul Johnson and maintained his commitment through the coaching change.
His most action came in the abysmal game against Virginia Tech in 2019 where he passed for 38 yards and rushed for 16. He did appear in three games in 20 but all were losses and he only recorded a few snaps.
The coaching staff appears to view Yates as a holdover from the option era even though they honored his commitment in the 2019 class. It is likely that a newer recruit passes him for backup on the roster this year.
Chayden enrolled early this year and went through spring practice and even recorded a touchdown in the spring game. He is a decently rated 3-star prospect but it should be noted he played in the Los Angeles region in high school which is one of the most competitive in the country.
If Peery managed to find some playing time he would be a style the Tech fans haven’t been used to in quite some time. He is mobile but is a much larger drop-back QB than Tech has had in recent memory. I expect him to overtake Yates by year’s end and push Sims if the offense doesn’t improve.
Knight originally came to the team as a QB but later swapped to linebacker after falling in the depth chart. He has made contributions on the defensive side but was called back after departures left Tech thin at QB.
Knight is really just insurance at this point since a few years have passed since he played QB in high school. Sims and Peery have too much potential for Knight to play in anything but a bad injury scenario.