(Atlanta, Ga.) – The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets began their spring practice this week and are going through the most drastic changes in college football. Gone is Head Coach Paul Johnson and his beloved option, run oriented offense after eleven seasons and in his place is Geoff Collins. While no one is 100% sure what the 2019 offense will look like, it will not be like anything seen on the Flats in recent years.
While trying to gain some insight into what might be in store, let’s take a glimpse at last years’ offense totals for Georgia Tech and Temple, where Coach Collins and offense coordinator Patanaude previously coached. The total yardage is amazingly close, Temple had 5,324 yard while Tech had just ten yards less at 5,314. But the way they went at it was completely different, Temple gained 62% of their yardage through the air behind quarterback Anthony Russo while the Yellow Jackets got 20% of theirs in the passing game, a huge difference.
Patanaude has built a reputation of running a face paced, spread offense and Temple and Charleston Southern prior to that. The key qualifications for a spread quarterback are athleticism and accuracy on short to mid-range passes, he must make quick decisions and play within himself and the system.
With the job description at quarterback no longer the same as it was when the players were recruited, the big question is, who will end up playing QB this season. TaQuon Marshall took most of the snaps last season and he has graduated and is looking for NFL opportunities, so there is no returning starter. The new QB will come from a cast that includes four current players on the roster and two incoming freshmen.
Tobais Oliver has the most game experience at the position, but most of that was as a runner. Who can forget his performance against Virginia Tech last year when he carried he ball 40 times for 215 yards. His rushing yardage in that game alone was more that his passing yards for the season (167 yards). He may be looking at a position change to a different skilled position on the offense, he is just too good an athlete to not have on the field.
Lucas Johnson, a sophomore from San Diego, might have the best skill set for the spread, but he has limited experience. He was supposed to be the top back up this past season, but an injury held him out. Going into spring practice, he appears to be the leader at the position. Of all quarterbacks on the roster, he has the best passing game potential.
James Graham was a four-star coming out of Fitzgerald Hugh School. He is a red-shirt freshman and was a dual threat in high school. Early last season, he began taking some reps at the receiver spot in practice, but after an injury to Johnson, he served as the third string quarterback, even completing a 22 yard pass against Georgia. However, he was ruled academically ineligible in the bowl game, so his status is uncertain.
The final quarterback has a different skillset. Redshirt Ryan Lantz, a redshirt freshman from North Palm Beach Florida, is more of a drop back passer, the only one on the roster. The walk-on gives the coaching staff a pro-style option if that is the direction they chose.
Two incoming freshman recruited by Johnson also enter the mix, Jordan Yates from Milton and Demetrius Knight from Strong Rock Christian. While neither is participating in springs practice, they could be in the mix come fall with all of the transition.
Ultimately, it will come down to who buys in the most and who absorbs the system better, but Johnson is differently the early favorite. Whoever wins the QB completion earns the prize of starting against the reigning National Champion Clemson Tigers on August 29, 2019, quite a prize indeed.
Started Saturday Tailgate in 2018. Covering all things college football and talking Notre Dame on Twitter.