NCAA Football: Georgia Tech at Duke

Oct 12, 2019; Durham, NC, USA; Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets quarterback James Graham (4) rolls out of the pocket to throw the ball during the second half against the Duke Blue Devils at Wallace Wade Stadium. The Duke Blue Devils defeated the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 41-23. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

James Graham continues to grow in the role as Georgia Tech’s starting quarterback.

The redshirt freshman from Fitzgerald started for the second straight week against Duke and seems to be growing in comfort. He completed 15 of 35 passes for 206 yards and one touchdown, but was sacked four times. He ran 12 times and scored a touchdown.

“James is just developing every single play,” coach Geoff Collins said. “You can see his growth and maturity every day. I usually talk to him after stretch and I did that (Tuesday), but the biggest point I was trying to make was the leadership point.”

Graham is spending time in the film room with offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude in an effort to speed his growth.

“James Graham is starting to develop that process so that he can be a big-time player for us,” Collins said.

Graham is another one of the players being developed by the staff in this difficult transition year. Collins has preached development and getting players prepared for their opportunity to get on the field. That methodology has been tested all season and continues to provide benefits, despite the lack of wins.

In last week’s game with Duke, it was Quez Jackson’s turn to step up and take a big role. The sophomore had a bigger part to play on defense after starting linebacker David Curry from Buford had to leave the game following a targeting call. Jackson finished with a career high nine tackles to lead the team.

“For the third straight week the special teams developmental player of the week had to step into the game and have a big game for us,” Collins said. “And that was Quez Jackson. He came in a played a really nice game, was covering on kickoffs as well. He was flying around making plays for us, so I’m really proud of him.”

Jackson had been averaging about 12 plays each game. He played 40 against Duke.

“Those moments are invaluable,” defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker said. “Like Quez, with every single rep they’re getting better. And they have a chance to come in Sunday and learn from their mistakes. Sometimes the lessons are tough. Quez Jackson is getting a chance to play and develop.”

There were others, too. Defensive tackle Djimon Brooks from Sandersville, tailback Jerry Howard, running back Christian Malloy from Parkview and defensive back Wesley Walker all got a chance to contribute.

“(Brooks) has played a ton for us at defensive tackle,” Collins said. “He’s out there wearing a cast, but he’s battling and those kinds of things are rewarded around here.” Brooks, who played at Washington County High School, had a career-high five tackles against Duke.

The developmental twist will continue this week when Georgia Tech travels to Miami for a noon start on Saturday. The Yellow Jackets are seeking continued improvement and solidarity on their offensive line and additional steps from James Graham, who has won the job as starting quarterback.

The offensive line has started the same five guys the last two weeks – Connor Hansen and Jack DeFoor at guard, Jared Southers and Zach Quinney at tackle and William Lay III at center.

“We’re still developing that position, that’s no secret,” Collins said. “I think we’ll see more guys play this week. That’s already part of the plan, because those guys the last two weeks there’s been a steady five that have played the entire game and are in there battling. We’ll start working more guys.”

Michael Maye and Austin Smith, a pair of redshirt freshmen, were the only other linemen who played against Duke. Walk-ons Chet Lagod and Hamp Gibbs are among those who have played and could get future opportunities.