Monday, January 06, 2014

Nesbitt, Tevin, or Vad?

For two seasons I anxiously awaited the day when Vad Lee would be the starting quarterback for Georgia Tech. Lee was heralded as a great runner and passer – a perfect fit for Paul Johnson’s triple option offense. But after three years running Paul Johnson’s triple option offense Vad has decided to transfer. If deciding to come to Tech was a mistake, hopefully transferring is the right move for Lee. This might just be the best move for Tech as well.

While Josh Nesbitt was a great leader and powerful runner, he was not great at running the option. Inside or outside, Nesbitt would just as soon keep the ball than pitch it. The times he did pitch the play seemed to be a pre-arranged pitch, as opposed to reading the defense and pitching when they should.

Vad was redshirted during the 2011 season. I didn’t expect Paul Johnson to call more pass plays, and soon it was evident that Tevin Washington was a no better passer than Nesbitt. While not the strong runner Josh was, Tevin could run the option better. He made decent reads and knew when to keep and when to pitch. As a senior Washington could smell the end zone. Like Nesbitt, most of Tevin’s twenty touchdowns came on sneaks near the goal line.

Still, I knew the offense could be even more potent when run by a quarterback with a decent arm. As a redshirt freshman in 2012 Vad showed flashes of brilliance, particularly in the North Carolina game. Surely things would only get better in 2013 when Lee took over as the full-time starter. They didn’t.

Many people call Johnson’s offense “high school.” Not me. When run expertly by a decent passer, Tech’s offense can confound any team. The Jackets started out the 2013 season with even more looks, including the pistol. It appeared Lee didn’t put his heart into running the option. In a nutshell, Vad seemed content to take his licks on first and second down just so he could throw the ball on third down. After a slow start Johnson scaled back the offense to it’s more primitive form. When Vad did pass he often threw falling backwards off his back foot. More often than not these floaters were knocked down or intercepted. The option was rarely run - only two or three times in the Music City Bowl.

Like he had done with Washington, several times Johnson pulled Lee from games when he fumbled or performed poorly. I considered giving redshirt freshman QB Justin Thomas playing time a wise move. Thomas needed the experience and saved some wear and tear on Vad. Having taken most of the snaps, spending a few series watching from the sidelines could be a great learning experience for Lee. Is that what Vad did, or did he pout? Did these benchings sow the seeds that led to Lee’s transfer? More likely it was Lee's inability to run the option.

This was Vad’s third year running the offense: (1) as a redshirt in practice, (2) as the backup QB in practice and games, and (3) as the full time starter. As both a passer and runner Lee had a worse 2013 season than Nesbitt or Washington had the past three seasons. Instead of more poor production from Lee the next two years, perhaps starting fresh is the best thing possible for the Jackets. Thomas is quick and fast, though his arm is quite weak. But as we have seen, a weak passing arm has hardly limited Tech’s offensive production in the past.  

Passing and rushing stats for the past four seasons.



Justin Thomas ran the option in high school. If he can run Johnson’s option, Tech may have a better season next year.

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