QB Competition Heats Up in Atlanta
By Matthew Osborne
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Tevin Washington started all 13 games at quarterback for the Yellow Jackets in 2011, running for 987 yards and throwing 11 touchdowns.
Pigskin finally returned to the Flats this past Monday, as Georgia Tech conducted the first of 15 spring practices in shorts and helmets under the watchful eye of head coach Paul Johnson.
With no shortage of storylines heading into spring ball, there was a great deal of excitement surrounding the Yellow Jacket’s return to the gridiron, as media members and fans alike were eager to see some of Tech’s new developments unfold on the practice field.
As always, there was a great deal of uncertainty heading into the start of spring practice.
Will the defensive line finally generate a pass rush this year? Will new special teams coach David Walkosky be able to turn around a Yellow Jacket special teams unit that has been sub-par for the greater part of a decade? Who will step up to replace Julian Burnett at inside linebacker?
While the answers to those questions will undoubtedly be extremely influential in determining the success of Georgia Tech’s 2012 season, none of those issues takes the cake as the hottest topic at Georgia Tech spring practice.
Assuredly coming as a surprise to some, Georgia Tech’s biggest storyline for this year’s spring practice is a position battle which is occurring at a position where the Yellow Jackets return their starter from a year ago.
Tevin Washington started all 13 games at quarterback for the Yellow Jackets in 2011, running for 987 yards and throwing 11 touchdownsin leading Tech to an impressive 34.3 points per game average. However, many people close to the Yellow Jacket program have gone on record saying that, despite his solid play last season, Washington has the least physical skills of the three signal-callers currently on Tech’s roster.
While that prevailing sentiment is likely accurate, both of Georgia Tech’s backups last season, Synjyn Days and Vad Lee, had deficiencies of their own which prevented them from unseating Washington. Days is an exceptional athlete with a solid arm, but his brief career in Atlanta has been marred by his inability to protect the football. Meanwhile, Lee is probably the best athlete of the bunch, but, like most true freshmen, he struggled to grasp the complex offense in his first season.
It is often said that the backup quarterback is usually the most popular player on a football team. In an age of advanced technology and increased coverage of high school recruiting, however, former Georgia Tech quarterback A.J. Suggs argues that fans are now more aware of the skill sets of their backup quarterbacks.
“All of the hype is always on the younger guys because we have seen what they can do,” Suggs commented during a recent interview. “Especially now with high school recruiting being so visible to everyone on the internet, people have seen their highlights and know that they are good players.”
With both Days and Lee having an additional three months to work on correcting their flaws, the competition is expected to be wide open at quarterback this spring. Although Washington brings consistency and leadership to the table, the fact of the matter is that he is not as capable of creating as many big plays as either Days or Lee. The only thing that remains to be seen is whether the two young quarterbacks can master the offense and learn to take care of the football as well as Washington has in the past.
Regardless of how each of the three Yellow Jacket quarterbacks improve, Suggs believes that we will see a starting quarterback named before spring practice is finished on April 20.
“In my opinion, I think the job is going to be won in the spring, no matter who it is.” Suggs said. “As we all know, Paul Johnson is a straight shooter. He’s going to say ‘Look guys, it’s up in the air’. There is a lot of expectation, I think, for all three. Tevin Washington’s got a lot of experience. He had signs of brilliance early in the year last year, and had some tougher games later in the year.”
While some coaches have the philosophy that it is best to let your quarterbacks compete for as long as possible to determine who is the best option, Suggs believes that it is important to name a starting signal-caller as early as possible because it provides leadership opportunities and the ability to gain chemistry amongst the offensive players.
“I was always a lot more nervous going into spring ball because it was always open competition,” Suggs said of his former playing days. “Whoever came out of spring ball playing the best, that was the team leader going into the fall. All summer long, there’s an expectation that ‘Hey, this is our guy’. As a fan, I am hoping that someone emerges this spring so that we can put some of this to bed. I think the earlier that we can get a starter announced so that the team can start building chemistry with that person, the better we are going to be.”
As the Yellow Jackets continue to give each of the quarterbacks on the roster an opportunity to prove that they are the best man for the job, it will be interesting to see whether experience or athleticism will win out in the end.
At least in the eyes of one former Yellow Jacket starting quarterback, the starting competition will be decided by a singular skill.
“Honestly, for me, it comes down to throwing the football. I know the option reads are important, but I think that any of those guys can do that. I think that guy that’s really going to separate himself is the guy who can throw the football.”