The main focus all spring for the Georgia Tech football team was to identify the player expected to take over at quarterback in the fall.
That has not been an issue since Justin Thomas earned the job three years ago and led the Yellow Jackets to a pair of bowl victories. Thomas was dependable, durable and productive, three attributes that head coach Paul Johnson will gladly take in the next quarterback.
The four-man battle to take the starting spot took a hit two weeks ago when Matthew Jordan suffered a non-contact foot injury. Jordan had been expected to be the No. 1 guy, but his injury gummed up the works and opened the door for three other quarterbacks.
At the annual spring game on Friday, all eyes will focused on that trio of quarterbacks. Will one of them seize the job or will the situation remain in flux going into preseason camp?
Never miss a local story.
Each of the candidates has his own special set of skills.
On Wednesday, after the final practice of the spring, Johnson said, “All four guys, I’d be good with any of them playing in a game.”
TaQuon Marshall, a junior, ascended to the No. 1 spot when Jordan was injured, and has been trying to enhance his position. Marshall isn’t that big (5-foot-10, 185 pounds), but is quick and elusive when running the ball and has proved to be an better-than-adequate passer.
Jay Jones, a redshirt freshman, has been impressive as a runner during the spring. He’s shown an ability to evade tacklers and make plays. However, Jones suffered an ankle injury during Monday’s practice and may not play on Friday.
Lucas Johnson, another redshirt freshman, has dealt with some tendinitis issues, but his physicality (6-3, 200) could be helpful in a position that takes a lot of pounding. He spent some time with the first-team group during passing drills on Wednesday.
Here are five other places that may be interesting to watch on Friday:
A-back: Clinton Lynch missed the spring with a non-disclosed injury. That leaves playmaker Qua Searcy (Lamar County) and big-play J.J. Green at the forefront, with sophomore Nathan Cottrell in a position to move up the charts. Cottrell was injured prior to his freshman season and is finally getting back to form. He and sophomore Omahri Jarrett are the main contenders to take the role left by Isiah Willis.
B-back: KirVonte Benson and Quaide Weimerskirch are trying to earn the right to be the No. 2 at the position behind Dedrick Mills. Benson and Weimerskirch are likely to get a lot of snaps on Friday, with Mills taking limited licks.
Defensive line: Gone are Pat Gamble, Rod Rook-Chungong and Francis Kallon. That leaves senior KeShun Freeman as the most experienced player there, along with regulars Antonio Simmons, Anree Saint-Amour at end and Kyle Cerge-Henderson, Brentavious Glanton and Brandon Adams at tackle. Desmond Branch is making the switch from end to tackle.
Secondary: This should be a strength for the team this season, with the return of safety A.J. Gray (Washington County), cornerback Lance Austin (Lamar County), nickel Lawrence Austin (Lamar County)and strong safety Corey Griffin. Those making progress this spring have included Shaun Kagawa and Lamont Simmons, who could added depth at the group.
Specialists: A pair of incoming freshmen are expected to have a great shot at winning the job in the fall. However, holdover punter Grant Aasen, who started a game last season, and kicker Shawn Davis will get their chance in the spring game.
About the spring game: The game will start at 7 p.m. at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Admission is free.
Georgia Tech has a Wreckfest scheduled to start at 5 p.m. in Callaway Plaza, just outside the North stands. There will be face painting and inflatable games for kids, a photo booth, food vendors and live music. Free parking is available at the Visitors Area 1, Klaus Deck, Lower Peters, Student Center and W21 lots.