#TGW: QB, B-Back Competitions Continue to Unfold

Aug. 13, 2017

Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word

As Georgia Tech scrimmaged Saturday for the first time, “there was some good and some bad,” which is about what you’d expect head coach Paul Johnson to say. And while the quarterbacks have not sorted themselves yet, there was at least one emergent offensive player.

The name of Jerry Howard surfaced quickly after Johnson was asked about the scrimmage in Bobby Dodd Stadium.

A certain 6-foot, 215-pound freshman B-back from Rock Hill, S.C., continued making impressions — as he has in practices — on coaches and players alike.

“We had some young guys do some things. Jerry ran the ball hard. He’s a load,” Johnson said almost immediately off the top. “He played like I thought.”

The head coach and staff are focusing on younger players in a mode that will continue for a few more days before the Yellow Jackets settle into a routine much more like the regular season next week. Fall semester classes begin Aug. 21.

Moving forward from there, the focus will be on the opening game Sept. 4 against Tennessee in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“Next week is still a little bit about us, and we’ll start to gauge more into Tennessee and then at the end of [the following] week we’ll be all Tennessee,” Johnson said. “By then we’ll have depth [chart] set because we’ll have scout team.”

Junior quarterback Matthew Jordan, who entered fall camp as the leading candidate to replace the graduated Justin Thomas, was limited in participation on Saturday because he suffered an early injury to his shoulder. Johnson suggested it wasn’t serious and “he could have come back in.”

That left junior TaQuon Marshall and redshirt freshmen Lucas Johnson and Jay Jones to handle the bulk of the work. Apparently, Johnson wasn’t blown away.

“Quarterback play was spotty. It didn’t unfold at all like I thought it might going in,” he reported. “They all had scoring drives. We moved the ball. Jay’s a big play waiting to happen for somebody, but he did a better job taking care of the ball today. I don’t think there was a turnover.

“TaQuon made some nice plays. They all made some nice plays. We didn’t throw the ball very well . . . It was a combination of things. It was drops and protection. We dropped a lot of balls.”

Where details are fuzzy on the quarterback competition, they may remain so even after a pecking order is established.

“Our guys will know who the quarterback is [by the Tennessee game],” Johnson said with a hint of a smile. “I don’t know that we’ll tell the other team who the quarterback is.”

One thing is fairly certain: sophomore Dedrick Mills (5-10, 227) will be the starting B-back. He was named preseason all-ACC after leading the Jackets last season with 771 rushing yards and 12 scores despite missing four games.

Mills looks to have help, as speedy redshirt sophomore KirVonte Benson (5-9, 211) is expected back this week from injury to join classmate Quaide Weimerskirch (6-0, 217) and Howard.

This could be the third consecutive season that a freshman B-back will stand out after Marcus Marshall made noise in 2015 and Mills made a mark in ’16.

While playing for Northwestern High School in Rock Hill, Howard rushed for 3,352 yards and 41 touchdowns and added 1,099 receiving yards and another 12 scores in 39 games. As a senior, he caught 49 passes. Howard also wrestled and ran track.

“Jerry’s a load; he’s hard to tackle. I could see him playing, yeah,” Johnson said. “He was kind of a wrecking ball in high school. He keeps his pads down. He is tailor-made for what we do.

“We’ll get KirVonte back. He’s been out, which gives those guys some reps, and Quaide did some things. He’s got to get his pads down.”

There is time to work on that and those quarterbacks.

Opening day is three weeks from Monday.

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