The Georgia Tech quarterback situation is far from determined. But after Friday’s spring game it appears the Yellow Jackets have numerous options, and each brings a strong upside.
With projected No. 1 candidate Matthew Jordan out most of the spring with a foot injury, the other candidates took their turns in Friday’s scrimmage. Each had flashes of brilliance and other moments where inexperience was obvious.
The bottom line is that junior TaQuon Marshall, redshirt freshmen Jay Jones and Lucas Johnson had a chance to show why they deserve a crack at starting in the fall and none of the three should be disqualified from the conversation. But the job likely remains Jordan’s to lose.
“The biggest thing is when Matthew comes back, he has that experience where he’s played in games and the other guys have to gain that,” Paul Johnson said. “So (Friday) was really good for them.”
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Marshall and Jones played with the first-team offense. Lucas Johnson and walk-on Chase Martenson played with the second unit. Each had his moment. Marshall appeared to be more comfortable passing the ball. He was 4-for-9 for 37 yards and rushed 12 times for 38 yards. He was sacked twice.
“TaQuon has played much better this spring than he played (Friday),” Paul Johnson said.
Marshall said, “I definitely progressed week by week. I wouldn’t say I’m where I want to be, but there’s a lot of work I need to work on over the summer. I definitely improved from week one to now. I’m very comfortable. I could tell by watching the film how fast I played, so I was very comfortable this spring now that I’m at quarterback.”
Jones was expected to play after suffering an ankle injury Monday that had him on crutches most of the week. But Paul Johnson said Jones “was hellbent to play.” The Alabama native is unquestionably the most elusive player and had a couple of electrifying runs, one of them 56 yards.
Jones rushed 13 times for 81 yards and completed 2-of-6 for 43 yards with one interception. He was sacked twice for minus-23 yards.
“He can be so elusive that he thinks he can get away from everything,” Paul Johnson said. “He’s got to learn on this level, it’s not as easy as it was in high school. … The biggest issue with Jay was ball security. That was all over the place, and he had been doing a better job of that.”
Lucas Johnson started for the Gold team, which featured the No. 2 offense. The Californian showed his promise on his first carry, which he took around the end for a 70-yard touchdown. He rushed 11 times for 59 yards and completed 7-of-13 for 69 yards and one touchdown. He was sacked three times for minus-22 yards.
“They haven’t played in front of a crowd. I thought Lucas handled it really well. He just kina played and nothing really bothered him,” Paul Johnson said.
Here are a few other things that were learned from Friday’s spring game:
Dedrick Mills remains the starter, and KirVonte Benson and Quaide Weimerskirch will continue battle for the backup spot. Mills played limited time Friday, partly to protect the team’s most valuable runner and partly to see what the other two could do.
Benson played with the No. 1 offense and rushed nine times for 57 yards and one touchdown. Weimerskirch ran seven times for 26 yards.
“I thought KirVonte made some good runs,” Johnson said. “If I had to pick a No. 2 right now, he would probably be 2-A and Quaide would be 2-B. They bring different things to the equation. KirVonte had a good spring. Quaide did some nice things.”
Weimerskirch had a memorable moment when he tried to leap over a tackler before getting nailed.
“That’s the second time he jumped over a guy,” Johnson said. “He’s going to get himself killed. I wouldn’t advise that.”
Ricky Jeune was dinged up and didn’t play, and Brad Stewart tweaked his ankle early while Antonio Messick was shaken up early. That allowed Jalen Camp (four catches for 44 yards) to solidify his spot at the No. 3 receiver. Others who had the moments were Jair Hawkins-Anderson (two catches) and Xavier Gantt (three catches for 44 yards, one touchdown).
“We’ve got to find a couple more guys,” Johnson said. “Normally we try to play with four or five. Jair has some ability but he’s got to be consistent and not bust plays.”
On the defense
Linebacker Brant Mitchell showed more ability to rush the passer, although the results must be weighed by the quality of opposition. Mitchell had seven tackles, 2 1/2 tackles for loss and forced a fumble.
“I think as far as our defensive line is concerned we have a lot of guys rushing the ball and that helps with freeing me up,” Mitchell said.
Antonio Simmons had the best night as a pass rusher, coming up with two sacks and three tackles behind the line, and forced a fumble. Desmond Branch, moved to tackle, had five tackles and a sack.
Among the others, linebackers Terrell Lewis and Victor Alexander were active and defensive lineman Tyler Vernon had a nice game.