By Matt Winkeljohn
The first temptation might be to suggest that Georgia Tech didn’t gain much Saturday night, but there was value to be found in the Yellow Jackets’ 59-3 win over Presbyterian.
Mostly, everybody finally got to see Vad Lee play.
There is no way to erase Monday night’s overtime loss at Virginia Tech, yet the Jackets Saturday in Bobby Dodd Stadium smudged the memory of that result enough to transform the constant gonging in their heads to a dull ache.
Plus, coaches fans alike also got a look at the future, and a big part of that has for a while been rumored to be Lee. Everybody likes to dream about what lies ahead, right? To see it ahead of time and perhaps ahead of schedule surely counts as a bonus.
At a minimum, the redshirt freshman quarterback confirmed the reasons for the hype that has been attached to him since he pledged to Tech out of North Carolina a couple years ago. As the third of three Tech quarterbacks to play, he may well have moved up a spot in the rotation.
When a guy rushes for 106 yards and a touchdown and rips off the longest non-scoring run in school history (79 yards), completes one beautiful pass for an 82-yard touchdown and fires two others on target only to have them dropped, that’s making an impression.
For the time being, Lee is not able to make his thoughts known on Twitter – where he is known to be all thumbs. His head coach has put a team-wide freeze on said social media for the time being. He sounds a lot in person like he reads on Twitter.
“It was amazing,” he said when asked about the feeling of finally getting to play football again after his redshirt year. “It took me a couple snaps to get back right . . . I’m blessed.”
A dual-threat quarterback is nothing new to head coach Paul Johnson, but historically that has meant runners who pass occasionally. Lee may be a better passer than he is a runner, and he runs pretty well.
His 1-yard scoring plunge in the third quarter wasn’t special, really, but for the fact the 6-foot-1, 213-pounder ran with perhaps a little more power than some might have predicted.
That long pass to Jeff Greene? Now that was special.
Lee slide-stepped left in the pocket, where he might just be more comfortable than any quarterback the Jackets have had in a while, and lofted the ball long down the left sideline in just such a fashion that Greene could run under it.
When the ball left Lee’s hand, Green had broken from the left sideline and was angling right, toward the middle of the field on a post route. Without looking back, he broke out on a corner route.
It was a nice double move. Nicer still was the timing and direction of Lee’s throw – to Greene’s left, or outside, shoulder. Remember, Greene was running one way and Lee threw another. Yet it all worked out the way you might draw it on a chalkboard.
“I saw Jeff collide with the cornerback, and I knew he’d get off that corner,” Lee said. “Me and Jeff, we came in [to Tech] together. We worked out even before we got here. I didn’t play last year, but I’ve thrown that route to him so many times that it was almost easy. I knew he could go get it.”
Greene did. Lee was not finished.
Just minutes later, he ripped off that 79-yarder on the last play of the third quarter.
That was pretty unique. The snap was quite high, and it looked like he improvised when he went off right tackle, threw a little hip wiggle in there, and took off. He was none too happy about being caught and downed at the Presbyterian 2-yard-line, but not so much that he couldn’t laugh about it later.
“That will come up when we watch film Monday,” he said with a smile. “Hopefully, not after that.”
That was a planned play, a quarterback draw. The snap was not part of the plan. That was Lee’s athleticism, going up to get it, bring it down, and take off.
Had the Jackets not opened the season with such a stout opponent in such a “salty” place, Lee probably would’ve played in the opener. But, “that game wasn’t for the faint of heart,” Johnson said. It would not have been a great place to break in a player.
Several Jackets broke in Saturday night, actually, and Lee led the way among them.
He summarized nicely when he said, “I think I took a step forward, not back.”
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