Nov. 6, 2012
By Matt Winkeljohn
Thinking back to the many revelatory comments that seemed to come out of Paul Johnson’s Tuesday press gatherings a few years ago, a vexing thought arose yesterday on the way to another: has Georgia Tech’s coach become more staid, or is he not being asked the questions to produce more interesting answers?
Surely, the truth is spread over shades of gray, which is to say some of both to leave a final verdict open to each individual’s opinion on the levels of darkness and light.
There is not much new ground left to cover, relatively speaking.
Then, there is the issue of quarterback.
Tech fans want to know what’s going on there, and on Tuesday, Johnson said plenty to indicate that senior Tevin Washington and redshirt freshman Vad Lee will both play, again, Saturday at North Carolina.
The coach offered more than all season – although his answers didn’t rise to the level of acute detail – on why Lee has played much more lately than earlier in the season.
It’s less about Washington struggling, and more about Lee improving.
“I think he is getting better every week. I think that it’s been good the way that it has happened for him,” Johnson said. “He hadn’t been thrown out there and I think as a quarterback it’s better to watch on the side for a few series and get a feel for the other team . . .
“I think both quarterbacks bring something. Tevin has a lot of experience. He’s played a lot of football. You’re not going to line up too many ways that he hasn’t seen or doesn’t know what to do. Vad brings a lot of athleticism and a lot of energy . . . as he progresses, like I’ve said all along, the more he gets accustomed to what we’re doing, the better he gets at it, the more he’s going to play.”
In Saturday’s 33-13 win at Maryland, Washington started and scored on a 1-yard run to put Tech on the scoreboard. That gave him 34 career rushing touchdowns, one shy of Josh Nesbitt’s ACC career record for touchdowns by a quarterback. He rushed four times for 30 yards.
“He’s been a tough, physical runner down there and he’s managed to get it in. A lot of them have been quarterbacks iso[lations] and follows,” Johnson said. “He’s got a knack for getting it in. Plus, he’s broken some longer plays. The nature of what we do, I think, lends itself to that.”
Each quarterback completed 1-of-2 passes, Washington for 5 yards and Lee for 26.
Lee rushed 12 times for 60 yards, and scored twice himself.
Amid the rush to label Lee the future, there is the looming reality that next year he’ll be in Washington’s spot. That’s not to say he’ll be the starter. Justin Thomas is red-shirting, and he’s talented, enough so that this conversation will arise again in spring practice even as Washington is out of the picture.
There is growing evidence that Lee has bided his time and made use of it.
Coming out of high school, where he worked so much out of the shotgun, Lee was much less comfortable under center. He may still be, but that’s become less an issue. He’s also better making the reads required of him on the fly, and they are multiple.
Asked if he calls plays differently depending on which quarterback is in the game, Johnson didn’t exactly say yes or no.
“We didn’t run any different plays or anything different with either quarterback last week . . . It’s not like we’re running two different offenses where one guy comes in and all of a sudden you change gears and it’s a passing offense. That would be awfully hard for us to do, because, forget the quarterback, the other 10 guys would have to learn two different things.
“You try to call what you think gives you the best chance to be successful. It’s not just the quarterback. It’s who’s the running back, who’s the receivers? It doesn’t do any good to run pulling plays if guys can’t pull, or run option routes with wide receivers who don’t run them well . . . You can’t make the other 10 do something they’re not good at because one guy is good at something else.”
That probably can be taken as a way of saying that Lee’s presence doesn’t make the Yellow Jackets a pass-happy team in part because they’re not well equipped to pass protect or run sophisticated routes.
So, whether Lee throws a prettier ball or not does not have a whole lot more to do with whether or not Johnson will ask him to pass more when he’s in the game. Other personnel considerations, not to mention down and distance, will factor as well.
And generally speaking, Lee has developed to the point where the offense may look more similar when he’s at the helm to what it looks like with Washington than it did earlier in the year. Sure, Lee make take more shotgun/pistol snaps than Washington, but to a great degree the Jackets are likely to do what they do. Period.
“We’re to the point with Vad that he’s going to run the same stuff that everybody else runs,” Johnson said. “Early in the year, that was not the case; he just couldn’t do it . . . thus, when he went in the game, there were different plays. There was stuff that I felt that he could do better . . . that played to his strengths.”
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