After taking a look at the advanced metrics last week, we make the move into our positional previews. Today, we start with the quarterbacks.
Though the bulk of experience returns to the roster in Jeff Sims, he is virtually the lone returnee, with the losses of Jordan Yates (transfer to Sam Houston State), Chayden Peery (transfer to College of the Canyons), and Trad Beatty (from what I can gather, he graduated and is not continuing with football). Walk-on quarterback Brody Rhodes also returns to the team this year.
And despite the lack of experience coming back, it looks like there is still going to be a QB battle.
After serving as the primary starter for the last two seasons, it seems incredibly likely that Sims will once again man the helm for the Yellow Jackets. In his time as the Yellow Jackets’ starting quarterback, he has shown some incredible potential. For instance, in his first start (2020 against Florida State), Sims impressed mightily, completing 23 of his 34 passes for 277 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Unfortunately, for as many games where Sims showed that potential, he has about as many where fans are left wondering, “Really?” Coming into this season, Sims will be working with new QB Coach Chris Weinke. And if you read my article about Weinke from a couple weeks ago, you would know that I have a bit of optimism about what the former Heisman winner can do with Sims.
Serving as the complete antithesis of Sims, Zach Gibson is a quick decision-maker and accurate but is lacking in terms of pure arm talent and athleticism. Last year at Akron, Gibson started making waves with an incredibly impressive line: 109/157 for 1,262 yards, 10 touchdowns, and zero interceptions. Gibson also ranked near the top of the whole league in several advanced metrics, including completion percentage over expectation, which would indicate that Gibson is unlikely to revert to the kind of numbers he had in his first two seasons at Akron (which were much more average). I expect Gibson to come back down to Earth a little, and it seems unreasonable to expect him to continue to avoid throwing interceptions, but I see Gibson getting a good amount of playing time this season.
This is the real wildcard for me. Shocking many (certainly me, if nobody else), former Clemson quarterback Taisun Phommachanh opted to transfer into what has surprisingly become a crowded quarterback room. As a Top 5 dual threat QB coming out of high school, Phommachanh brings an incredible amount of potential. He never got much of a chance to showcase that potential at Clemson after sitting behind Trevor Lawrence and DJ Uiagelelei, but he served as the primary back-up for both of them. In addition to a big arm and athleticism, Phommachanh also brings a big body to the QB room. This could help him in short yardage situations where he can come in and run a couple guys over.
Joining Jeff Sims, Zach Pyron is the second of two Elite 11 quarterbacks to join the roster. After enrolling early, Pyron dealt with a thumb injury that kept him out for part of the Spring. Looking at his high school film, Pyron is certainly impressive.
Here’s what I had to say about his film in our commitment article for Pyron:
Watching his highlights, there is a lot to like here. Throughout the video, he faces a lot of pressure from opposing defenses, but he’s able to move around and avoid sacks while still keeping his eyes downfield. He showed that he has decent but not great wheels on runs. He’s also really good at the short-to-intermediates passes that he makes. His deep balls leave a little to be desired, though. There were a couple really good ones that defenders didn’t have a chance at touching, but there were also several where the receiver had to slow up to catch the ball. It’s less easy to get away with that at the college level. Overall, I really like this addition, and if he can work out those deep throws, Tech has got themselves a player.
Who’s Above the Line?
At this point, I think it’s a given that Jeff Sims will be the starter, at least to start the season. In every season that Geoff Collins has been a head coach, the closest he has come to using just one quarterback was his second year at Temple, when Anthony Russo ran away with the job, but that did not happen for a few games into the season. Thus, I think it is safe to say that Tech will see a number of quarterbacks play this season.
When the first ATL chart gets released leading up to the Clemson game, I expect Gibson and Phommachanh to join Sims above the line, while Rhodes and Pyron are not. I also want to note that the only reason I exclude Pyron here is because I expect Collins and Co. to preserve Pyron’s redshirt.
At least to start the season, I expect Gibson to be the first guy off the bench, as Phommachanh will be far less experienced with the playbook, having not transferred until after the Spring.
What quarterback are you most interested in seeing play this season?