Now that Paul Johnson is officially done as the head coach, we can start focusing in a little bit more on what new head coach Geoff Collins plans to do with the offensive side of the ball. In his opening presser, Collins mentioned that the Yellow Jackets would be running more of an NFL-style offense.
This does not necessarily mean that Tech will be running a pro-style offense, a la Stanford. More likely, we’ll see a more traditional spread offense, though my hopes are for a multiple-style offense, a la Matt Canada.
With a new offense, the skillset required to play quarterback will change from what was needed in Johnson’s spread option offense. The biggest difference is that there will be a larger focus on traditional quarterback skills (i.e. arm strength/accuracy, pocket presence, etc.).
Given the way that Georgia Tech has viewed quarterbacks during the CPJ era, it’s likely that Collins will want to bring in a transfer, whether graduate or otherwise, to at least compete with the quarterbacks on the roster.
Who’s on the roster already?
At this time, Georgia Tech will only be losing one quarterback from its roster in TaQuon Marshall, who has started at quarterback the last two seasons. That leaves Georgia Tech with a handful of options already on the roster (please note the year listed reflects what year they are in for the 2019 season).
Lucas Johnson (R. Jr.)
Johnson was intended to be TaQuon Marshall’s back-up quarterback this season before he suffered a season-ending injury during the first scrimmage of fall practice. Since coming to the Flats, Johnson was always seen as more of a passing quarterback. He hasn’t played much, so there is not much to analyze.
In terms of stats, Johnson has appeared in 10 games. He has one carry for one yard. That’s it. It’s not much to work with, so I’ll base this on his senior film from high school.
Just looking at his stats, Johnson completed 58 percent of his passes for a little over 2,500 yards with 26 touchdowns. He also ran for another 1,166 yards and 14 touchdowns.
From watching his film, it’s easy to see that Johnson has the arm to make the throws he needs to. He’s able to get his feet set quickly and find his man downfield on deep passes. He also does a good job when he keeps the ball in his hands, as he’s faster than most of the guys he’s playing against. He’s able to easily break through most of these would-be tacklers.
The play at 2:11 does a good job of showing Johnson under some pressure. Johnson scrambles right to avoid the pressure while keeping his eyes downfield, but as the defense closes in, he cuts and goes the other way, using his speed to out-run the defense and getting the touchdown.
Given that Johnson’s injury was to his right foot, I think it’s reasonable to expect that he will have some hindrances running the ball, likely giving him more of a focus on passing.
It’s hard to find negatives since this is a collection of highlights. The biggest thing I see here is that Johnson will stare down his receivers and put them in situations where whatever happens, the pass will be contested. In what we see here, his receivers are the ones that come down with it.
If he can stay healthy, I think it’s safe to say he’ll be the frontrunner to be the starting quarterback come August 29, as he’s the best passing option currently on the roster.
Tobias Oliver (R. So.)
By measure of in-game experience, Oliver is Georgia Tech’s most experienced option returning at quarterback next season. Oliver started one game (against Virginia Tech) and served as TaQuon Marshall’s back-up the rest of the season, playing in 11 other games. In that time, Oliver was able to become the second-leading rusher (876 yards) and led the team in rushing touchdowns (12).
Oliver’s biggest game came in his start against Virginia Tech where he gave the Hokies the patented Matthew Jordan special. Oliver finished the game with 40 carries for 215 yards and three touchdowns.
Oliver did not get much of a chance to pass the ball, though. He completed seven of his 16 pass attempts for 167 yards and two touchdowns. There isn’t much film of Oliver passing, so it’s tough to say how good of a passer he is. What he is good at is running the ball. With his speed and balance,, Oliver is able to run through would-be tacklers, whether it be breaking off a long run or scrambling out of the pocket.
He will certainly be a candidate to be the quarterback next season, but I think Oliver is also a likely candidate to move positions in an effort to get him on the field somehow.
James Graham (R. Fr.)
The last of the scholarship quarterbacks on the roster, James Graham is the one that brings the most potential. Ever since coming to the Flats, he was widely regarded as the starter of the future. He didn’t get to show much of that this year, only appearing in three games, finishing with 27 yards on five carries and a single 22-yard pass.
Watching his senior film, it’s easy to see that Graham is good when he has the ball in his hands. He doesn’t quite have the speed that Lucas Johnson showed in his film, but he’s still fast enough to beat defenders.
When he’s passing, it looks like Graham does not use his lower body to plant before he throws. This puts a bit of a cap on his passing. Working with a good quarterbacks coach can fix that, though. Even in spite of that, Graham still makes some pretty impressive passes, specifically the deep pass where he’s forced out of the pocket.
Graham also shows some good pocket presence throughout his highlights, using his agility to move around or get out of the pocket.
The biggest thing to keep an eye on with Graham is the academics. Graham was declared academically ineligible for the Quick Lane Bowl after his first semester at Tech. People have come back from this before, but it’s certainly worth keeping an eye on.
Ryan Lantz (R. Fr.)
Ryan Lantz walked on with Georgia Tech this year and did not appear in any games. He served as a two-year captain for his high school team in North Palm Beach, FL. In his senior season, Lantz threw for 1500 yards, 25 touchdowns and only one interception.
Like the rest of Tech’s quarterbacks, Lantz is good on his feet. He’s shifty enough to avoid defenders and has some decent speed too. Passing the ball, though, Lantz is a little limited. He doesn’t have the greatest arm strength, so he’ll toss up some floaters and is pretty limited in deep passes.
Who else could join the roster?
Tech will already be adding two quarterbacks to its roster via its recruiting class in Jordan Yates and Demetrius Knight. Geoff Collins will also likely explore the transfer market (both regular and graduate) to look at the quarterback options.
Y’all, Jordan Yates is good at football, as evidenced by being named the offensive player of the year for Class AAAAAA (the highest classification in Georgia). I’m not sure if he’s enrolling early, but if he is, I think he will have a legitimate chance to be the starting quarterback for Georgia Tech next season. Watching his film, he makes some incredible throws, both on the run and across his body. Those are not easy throws to make, but he does it and makes it look easy.
He’s got the speed and athleticism to run past defenders, but he’ll also drop back in the pocket and find his guys. His passes have some good zip on the short-to-intermediate throws, but his deep passes do float a little bit. But honestly, if that’s the only complaint, it’s looking good. My only other complaint is the way he holds onto the ball when he’s scrambling. He holds it in one hand a lot instead of tucking it in, and that’s asking for fumbles.
Knight will provide another option at quarterback for the Yellow Jackets. I don’t think he has as much pure talent as Yates does, Knight is still a good player. In his film, Knight shows off a good arm, being able to throw it over the top of the defense consistently, and he’s also not afraid to truck some defenders while he’s running.
My biggest problem with him is his footwork when he drops back to pass. Typically, you want a quarterback to be light on his feet when he drops back, but Knight does this weird thing in the shotgun where he takes the snap and kind of rocks back before launching the ball. I’ll be honest and say that I don’t know enough about quarterback film to know if that’s necessarily a bad thing, but it looks a little awkward for him.
Before I start going through these, I want to preface this by saying that as of writing this, I have not seen any information that would lead me to believe that Georgia Tech is in play for any of these quarterbacks. These were just names of people that I think could potentially be interested in coming to Georgia Tech.
Jalen Hurts (Alabama)
Stats this year: 11 games, 50-for-67, 755 yards passing, 8 TDs, 2 INTs, 34 carries, 167 yards rushing, 2 TDs
Brandon Wimbush (Notre Dame)
Stats this year: 6 games, 54-for-102, 719 yards passing, 4 TDs, 6 INTs, 68 carries, 256 yards rushing, 1 TD
Tyree Jackson (Buffalo)
Stats: this year: 14 games, 225-for-407, 3,131 yards passing, 28 TDs, 12 INTs, 55 carries, 161 yards, 7 TDs
Obviously, Hurts is the golden goose of the bunch. Hurts is a proven commodity at the highest level and has a national championship under his belt. Sure, he got beaten out by Tua Tagavailoa, but he’s also arguably the best quarterback in the country, so I’m willing to look past that. He has not officially announced his intentions to transfer, so there is a possibility that he doesn’t transfer at all, though that would be very surprising to me.
I think it’s also safe to say that Hurts is probably a pipe dream for the Yellow Jackets. As a grad transfer, Hurts can transfer wherever he wants, so I imagine he’ll try to get his foot in at another SEC school or a school in his home state of Texas.
My next pick would be for Tyree Jackson up in Buffalo. Jackson has great size at quarterback, standing at 6-foot-7, 245 pounds. Like I mentioned the other day, it doesn’t hurt that the Yellow Jackets just brought over the strength and conditioning coach from Buffalo. Jackson has NFL aspirations, and there are some rumblings that he will take a shot at the NFL, though I think he would be better off waiting a year. Jackson will certainly have plenty of suitors, but he’d be fun to watch here.
Last up is Brandon Wimbush from Notre Dame. He was highly sought after coming out of high school, but lost his starting job for the Fighting Irish during the middle of the year. A change of scenery will likely be good for him, but I don’t know that at this point Wimbush is better than any of the options we already have. If nothing else, he’d be good for depth purposes.
Quarterback will certainly be an interesting position to keep an eye on throughout spring and summer practices. As of now, I think it’s safe to say that Lucas Johnson, assuming he comes back from his injury just fine, will be the starter, but it will be a fun battle to watch. As it is, here’s how I think the depth chart would shake out (potential grad transfers in brackets):
Tobias Oliver/James Graham
Who do you think will be starting at quarterback come August 29?