When Vad Lee announced in January he was transferring from Georgia Tech, most people assumed his backup, Justin Thomas, would slide nicely into the starting quarterback position in the Yellow Jackets spread option offense.
Thomas is still the front runner to replace Lee, who transferred to James Madison after passing for 1,561 yards and rushing for 513 in 2013. But Thomas elevation to starter may not be as clear cut as it was in January.
Tim Byerly, who walked on at Georgia Tech after starting his college career at Middle Tennessee State, should also be in the mix at quarterback when fall camp begins, Tech head coach Paul Johnson said Tuesday at the Peach State Pigskin Preview at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in Macon.
Byerly started Georgia Techs spring game after Johnson decided to hold Thomas out on a cold, wet night. He rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown in the game but struggled some with holding onto the ball in the sloppy conditions. He also went 5-of-11 for 69 yards through the air.
Tim had a really productive spring, I thought, Johnson said. Im excited about both of them.
Thomas has the pedigree of a top recruit. He was courted to play defensive back at Alabama after a standout career in Prattville, Alabama. He was a state champion in the 100 meters, giving Johnson an option at quarterback with elite speed. As a backup to Lee in 2013, Thomas passed for 131 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions. He rushed for 234 yards and two touchdowns.
Byerly came to Georgia Tech with less fanfare despite a standout prep career. He led Chattahoochee to an undefeated season and a state championship as a senior in 2010. He passed for 2,664 yards, 30 touchdowns and two interceptions, and rushed for 1,509 yards and 21 touchdowns on the way to the championship. But Byerly still didnt receive much college interest before signing with Middle Tennessee.
After transferring to Georgia Tech, Byerly figured to provide some depth, but his role became more important after Lee transferred. In the likely case that Thomas wins the job in the fall, Byerly is just one hit away from being the starter, and Tech quarterbacks tend to take quite a few hits in the option.
Tim Byerly is a good football player, Johnson said. Hes a well-rounded guy.
The rest of the offense is shaping up well, Johnson said.
Zach Laskey has a firm grasp on the B-back position. The senior rushed for 485 yards and seven touchdowns last season as rotation player.
Zach Laskey probably had the best spring practice of any guy on our team, Johnson said.
The A-back rotation will involve Synjyn Days, B.J. Bostic, Charles Perkins and Tony Zenon.
Macon native DeAndre Smelter could be the top option at receiver.
Smelter, a Tattnall Square Academy alum, moved over to play football last season after coming to Georgia Tech as a baseball player. Smelter caught 21 passes for 345 yards and a team-best four touchdowns last season despite not jumping to football just a few months before the season started. He finished second in receptions and third on the team in receiving yards and could be primed for a big senior season.