ATLANTA -- Georgia Tech answered some of the questions about its team during the season opener. Exactly how much is learned from a 69-6 win over overmatched opposition might be difficult to determine, but there were numerous takeaways from the Alcorn State game.
No. 1: Justin Thomas is even better than he was a year ago. He played only a quarter and showed the legs and the arm that could make him one of the best to play ever play the position at Georgia Tech -- including Joe Hamilton.
Thomas had only 2 yards rushing, but that counted an 18-yard loss he absorbed on a sack, which he later called “a boneheaded play.” His 13-yard touchdown run came when he reversed field on an ill-fated play-action pass and beat a defender to the corner.
His touchdown pass came on a tight throw to Micheal Summers, who showed some nice hands. When asked if he would have made that throw a year ago, Thomas quietly and confidently said yes.
If you wonder exactly how valuable Thomas is to this team, notice that he didn’t play past the first quarter. Plus, when the Yellow Jackets got to the goal line in a meaningless situation, head coach Paul Johnson put Tim Byerly in at quarterback. There’s obviously no sense taking a risk on your best player getting hurt.
No. 2: The B-back position is in good hands. Patrick Skov is everything that was advertised when he transferred from Stanford. And Marcus Marshall is better than advertised, since no one had seen him take a snap. Marcus Allen gives the Yellow Jackets three solid players there.
Skov and Marshall are actually roommates at the pregame hotel. Both are extremely articulate, Marshall maybe surprisingly so for a true freshman and Skov what you’d expect from a player who was smart enough to graduate from Stanford. Skov even answered a question in Spanish. Skov is the power runner, and Marshall might have the most breakaway ability there since Jonathan Dwyer.
“I love that kid like a little brother,” Skov said. “He’s learning, and as you can see, he’s a very good running back. With us both in the backfield, we have some talent that can work off each other, and we’ll keep growing as a duo and as an offense.”
No. 3: There are plenty of weapons available at A-back. Broderick Snoddy was the one given coming into the season, and he delivered with 51 yards on three carries. Snoddy showed no ill effects from a broken leg he suffered last year and further established himself at the spot.
It’s hard to gauge who else might play a big role there. Isiah Willis started, but Qua Searcy, TaQuon Marshall, Clinton Lynch and Matthew Jordan all got carries. Only Willis failed to produce a double-digit run, but his lone rush resulted in a 1-yard touchdown.
No. 4: The young players are going to get a chance. The players from Georgia Tech’s fine recruiting class of 2015 are going to have an opportunity to play a big role. Marshall will get most of the attention among the true freshmen.
But there are others. A.J. Gray had a tackle on a kickoff, intercepted a two-point conversion pass and recovered a fumble. Receiver Brad Stewart had only one target and almost made a nice catch on a ball that was overthrown. TaQuon Marshall ran once for 18 yards and caught a pass for 24 yards. Other freshmen who played were linebacker Victor Alexander, offensive lineman Will Bryan, defensive end Anree St. Amour and linebacker Brant Mitchell.
Freshmen who were on the depth chart, but did not play were receiver Harland Howell, defensive tackle Brentavious Glanton, nose tackle Kyle Cerge-Henderson, linebacker David Curry and cornerback Meiko Dotson.
“Nothing stands out to me other than I know Marcus had some long runs,” Johnson said about the contribution of the freshmen. “A.J. Gray had a nice tackle on the kickoff that I saw. TaQuon Marshall made a couple nice plays; he got a nice block one time and a nice pass reception. All in all, I thought they acquitted themselves OK. They’ll be better next time.”