A week ago, Georgia Tech went against conventional expectations and used three quarterbacks against Clemson to open the season. While the starting spot is yet to be determined, the Yellow Jackets will again use a trio for the home opener on Saturday against South Florida.
“It’s a good group and moving forward it’s going to be fun to watch,” offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude said. “They’re still trying to understand all the complexities in a pro-passing game.”
Sophomore Tobias Oliver got the starting nod last week. He found out about 24 hours before kickoff and was obviously pleased to earn the second start of his career. Sophomore Lucas Johnson was the second man to enter the fray and redshirt freshman James Graham took the final turn in the rotation.
Although the Yellow Jackets wound up with a 52-14 loss, the offense did some good things. Georgia Tech averaged 4.7 yards per play, which was better than 12 of the 15 opponents Clemson faced a year ago.
“It was our first time together in a new offense,” Oliver said. “Some things looked better than others. We’ll learn from it.”
Oliver ran 20 times for 56 yards, but completed only 3 of 9 passes for 65 yards with two interceptions. Johnson — the quarterback Clemson expected to start —was 0-for-2 on passing and rushed one time for 1 yard. Graham completed 4 of 7 passes for 72 yards and one touchdown and rushed four times for 15 yards.
“Tobias had a general idea of where he wanted the ball to go,” Patenaude said. “He missed a couple of throws. I thought he was on target. James sort of the same way. James, throwing the ball down the field, he uncorked a couple. He’s got a puncher’s mentality and if he has that first read (on the defense), he’s going to fling it.”
Graham had the only touchdown pass, a 28-yard throw to freshman Ahmarean Brown. Oliver had a nice 11-yard completion in the first quarter to Mountain View graduate Malachi Carter.
The decision to start Oliver was predicated on a couple of different factors. One, the Yellow Jackets were planning to run it more often — they even relied on some muscle memory and ran the option a few times — and, two, they wanted to put the young offensive line in the fewest number of high-leverage situations against Clemson’s stout defense.
“Not put them into as many bad situations as far as pass protection,” Patenaude said. “That was a concern. As the game went along, we felt we handled ourselves across the board.”
The Yellow Jackets had a game plan for each quarterback. It all depended on the flow of the game. That will be the case again this week. Coach Geoff Collins said the starting positions won’t be determined until after Thursday’s practice, but he said all three quarterbacks will play.
Georgia Tech put its youth on display in the opener. There were 18 freshmen who suited up — 10 redshirts and eight true freshmen — and only 10 seniors got in the game. There were 11 players who earned their first career starts and two graduate transfers were in the starting lineup.
Players of the week: Selected by the staff as the team’s players of the week were Nathan Cottrell (special teams), left guard Mikey Minihan (offense) and cornerback Tre Swilling (defense). Cited for their work on the developmental team last week were defensive lineman Jamal Camp, defensive back Jeremiah Smith of Grayson and defensive back Wesley Walker.
Team dentist dies: Dr. Aaron King, the Georgia Tech dentist for nearly 60 years, died at age 88. He was notable for making the team’s mouthpieces, building the first for Bill Curry when he played on The Flats and most recently all the mouthguards for the current team.