Both Georgia Tech and Virginia will have a different starter at quarterback this week.
Georgia Tech will start Justin Thomas, who is healthy again after sitting out last week’s game against Virginia Tech. But Virginia is going in a different direction, with Matt Johns getting the start ahead of Kurt Benkert, who started the previous 10 games.
Johns is a familiar face for Georgia Tech. The senior started last year against the Yellow Jackets and led the Cavs to a 27-21 win in Charlottesville. Johns completed 17-of-28 passes that day for 175 yards and one touchdown.
“We played against them last year, and they beat us up there with him playing quarterback,” Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson said. “So certainly we’ve got respect for him and what he can do. We’ll just kind of get ready for the system.”
Benkert, who transferred in as a junior after graduating from East Carolina, has thrown for 2,430 yards and 20 touchdowns, but he has been picked off 11 times. He was sacked five times last week against Miami.
“The skill set isn’t identical to what Kurt has, but it’s not a complete transformation,” Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “So we’ll tailor the skill set to Matt as much as possible.”
Johns had played in seven games this year. He has completed 5-of-9 passes for 77 yards and one touchdown. Until two weeks ago, he was running the scout team.
“A lot of times, we think our backup quarterback will learn, grow and develop every bit, if not more, by taking snaps every down against our defense,” Mendenhall said. “So Matt was actually growing, developing and improving. I was watching it happen throughout the season.”
Thomas threw for 251 yards and one touchdown against the Cavaliers a year ago, a game played on Halloween.
Thomas, center Freddie Burden and A-back/kick returner J.J. Green have been given the all-clear signal and will play on Saturday.
“This might be the healthiest we’ve been,” Johnson said.
Johnson offers warning
Virginia is 2-8 and has lost five straight games, but Johnson has been warning his team to avoid looking past the Cavs.
“Virginia is a lot better team than its record,” he said. “They’ve had a real issue with turning the ball over, but they have been in every game. We have to get ready to play our best game. There’s a lot for us to play for.”
Fromayan won’t play in 2017
He will still have a year of eligibility, but tackle Easton Fromayan told Johnson he won’t return next year. Fromayan is on track to graduate in December and will pursue a career in NASCAR, where he hopes to work on a pit crew.