New Additions (2):
Jaybo Shaw, Tevin Washington
QB: Josh Nesbitt, Calvin Booker, Jaybo Shaw, Tevin Washington
The biggest question this time last year at QB was how to replace the enigmatic Reggie Ball with a laundry list of candidates. You would think that by now all of those candidates would be jockeying for the top of the conversation again this year but with a coaching change and, more significantly, a change in offensive philosophy, you can scratch nearly every person I wrote about in this space last year as Reggie’s replacement.
Gone now are Taylor Bennett, Jonathan Garner, Kyle Manley, Steven Threet and Byron Ingram. Three of them didn’t make it into the season last year so they weren’t necessarily victims of the new philosophy. Garner, Ingram and Threet all hightailed it before the season started. With the problems at QB this season one of the three in that group possibly could have earned a larger role on this team and could have possibly saved the now departed staff. But that’s for them to wonder now. The most interesting of those three was Threet since the team he left and the team he joined – Michigan – both now have offenses more tailored for running style quarterbacks.
The two most affected by the coaching change appear to be Bennett & Manley. Bennett is expected to graduate soon and will have the opportunity to play elsewhere one more year. Manley, to my knowledge, will stay in school but will not play football next season.
So, to answer the question – what are the position needs? Easy – any player who is capable of running the triple option offense.
Spring Practice Report:
Josh Nesbitt and Calvin Booker are still around from last year’s team. They will be the only known factors in the QB race this spring, though it’s possible to see other current players change positions in order to get a shot at the depth chart. Nesbitt seems like an ideal fit for the offense if he can learn how to make all of the proper reads. Physically, he’s a great fit – he’s a powerful, fast runner and has great range on his passes. Josh would appear to be the biggest winner in the musical coaching chairs.
Booker seems to be a bit big and lumbering as an ideal fit for this offense but he’ll be in the mix too. One thing you can say about Booker is that his size makes him no easy task to bring down. If he can pickup the offense faster than Josh and do a better job executing it, he might surprise people for playing time despite not being the best dual-threat signal caller.
I seriously doubt that only two scholarship quarterbacks will be taking all of the reps at QB in a brand new offense. Coach Paul Johnson has stated the importance of live, full-speed reps in practice in order to master this offense. I would not be surprised, and I almost expect, to see someone else change positions for spring to compete for the QB position. Now as for who that will be is up for plenty of speculation.
One good guess often thrown around on the message boards is Dominique Reese. With Avery Roberson gone at corner, he’d be competing at that position for the 2-deep but he could also have an impact at QB. He was a QB in a run oriented offense in high school. Another name I’d offer up is one many would probalby disagree with and that’s Morgan Burnett. Many would say leave him on defense since he’s possibly our best all around defensive back. On the other hand, I have a feeling that Coach Johnson wants to find the best QB first and sort other positions out later. It would be an interesting and gutsy call to make. So far the staff has been non-commital on the possibility of players moving to QB from another position on the team. So in the meantime, we’ll be sure to fill the space with plenty of speculation!
Who GT signed:
Home Town (High School): Flowery Branch (Flowery Branch H.S.)
Other offers included: MTSU, Air Force
Lead GT Recruiting Coach: Charles Kelly
Scout.com Stars: ***
Scout.com State Ranking: 62
Scout.com Southeastern Ranking: NR
Scout.com National Ranking by Position: 56 (QB)
Scout.com National Ranking (Regardless of Position): NR
Other Honors: 3A All-State Honorable Mention
Chances are Tech fans would have seen Shaw in a Yellow Jacket uniform regardless of who the head coach was. Jaybo was offered late by Coach Chan Gailey though he didn’t commit until Coach Johnson took over and thought Shaw would also be a great fit for the new offense. Jaybo’s name has come up many times to me in the past two years when talking about recruiting in the state of Georgia. He has always been thought of as a super QB. Were he a little taller, he’d be getting the big offers from all over instead of schools like Middle Tennessee State, where he initially committed before changing to Tech. He had a great showing in the 7-on-7 camp at GT last summer and is a joy to watch on film. He not only can make all of the throws necessary to be a good college quarterback, he can also move well with the ball and is tough to grasp. At the time Jaybo committed, Tech fans were all caught up in the saga of Chris Jackson – would he honor his commitment or would he go to Alabama. It may just turn out that the big news from that week was Shaw coming to Tech when fans look back at the end of his career.
Recruiting Analyst Scott Kennedy on Jaybo Shaw:
“I can say the same thing about both quarterbacks (in the Tech class). They’re almost identical players. Very good mobility, but pass-first guys. If they drop back to pass, they’re not going to tuck and run. Their plan is to bide time so they can look downfield. And then they’ll run as a last resort. It’s the whole idea of having a quarterback that can run but doesn’t necessarily feel like he has to run. Follows the coach, which is always a good thing. Makes really good decisions with the ball. And he throws the ball real well and has a strong enough arm that he can be a factor in the passing game.”
Home Town (High School): Wetumpka, Al (Wetumpka H.S.)
Other offers included: Troy, Samford, Georgia Southern, Alabama State, Louisville, Arkansas State, Texas Southern, Alabama A&M and Memphis
Lead GT Recruiting Coach: Charles Kelly/Brian Bohannon
Scout.com Stars: ***
Scout.com State Ranking: NR
Scout.com Southeastern Ranking: NR
Scout.com National Ranking by Position: 60 (QB)
Scout.com National Ranking (Regardless of Position): NR
Other Honors: Alabama all-state as athlete
Tevin was one of the first new names to pop up on the GT offer list after the coaching change. With Tech needing to bring in some more quarterbacks in a hurry, Tevin made a lot of sense. At Wetumpka High, he was QB under a spread option attack. His speed, ability, and availability made him a logical target for Coach Johnson. Washington was under the radar for schools in BCS conferences but he seems to be a good enough athlete for that level. During signing day activities, the Tech coaches were very pleased to have him in the program. They also mentioned that Tevin could play other positions if it didn’t work out at QB. With his speed and knowledge of option offenses, he could also be a very good prospect as a slot back in Tech’s new offense.
Recruiting Analyst Scott Kennedy on Tevin Washington:
“A pass first quarterback with excellent mobility, Washington uses his elusiveness to scan downfield first, then to take off and run second. He has a quick release and is accurate on the short and intermediate routes. He has nice touch on the long ball, but struggles just a bit if he has to muscle up on a deep out. Deceptively fast, he's not a shake and bake type of runner, but possesses tremendous open field speed.”
Kennedy: When asked to elaborate on any differences between Shaw & Washington:
“I think Jaybo actually has a little more shake. He’s more apt to make a guy miss and Tevin’s probably a little faster. I didn’t think he was that good of a runner – he’s a lot like what A.J. Bryant used to do. A.J. Bryant wasn’t a good runner, he was just fast. If he gets out in the open, he can get 20 yards in a hurry. If you’ve got a guy squared up on him he’s not necessarily going to make him miss.”
The one who got away:
Really there weren’t any ideal names for this section this year. Renfree was offered early in the recruiting season by Gailey and told he would be the only QB in the class. So not many other offers were ever extended. After losing several quarterbacks before the season started, the coaches approached Sean about the idea of offering Jaybo Shaw because they didn’t want to just extend an offer after telling Sean he’d be the only one. Sean was okay with it and Jaybo was offered shortly before Coach Gailey was let go.
After the coaching change, it was clear that both sides no longer saw Renfree as the ideal fit in this offense. So he withdrew his pledge and eventually ended up at conference foe Duke, so Tech will have a chance to see him down the road on the field anyway.
Others who could be included on this list are Terrelle Pryor and Matt Roark. Pryor could be on the “one who got away” list for about 40 other schools. And, for some reason, at the time I’m writing this, Pryor still hasn’t made a decision on where he wants to go. Roark’s offer status was debated for much of the recruiting season and he may have been considered more of a backup plan. He ended up going with Kentucky, a team that showed more consistent attention to him.
It’s no knock at all on the guys who ended up signing to Tech at the quarterback position but this year was not an ideal finish for the position in several regards. The change in coaching staff and offensive philosophy made a huge impact on Tech’s class considering how late in the recruiting season it all took place.
Tech landed two kids in the top 60 range at QB but both are probably a little better than that considering they’ll be in offenses matched closely with their skill sets. It’s not like Tech had the pedal down on kids the entire recruiting season at the QB position. With Renfree in the fold, there really wasn’t a big push to continue spending time recruiting others for the position. Shaw was an exception because he was a good player, showed well in the camp at Tech and was known to be open to the idea of changing from MTSU.
In the future I think you’ll definitely see more kids with lavish rankings showing more interest in Tech as quarterbacks but that’s not the only difference I expect to see. The main difference – and what would really have helped for this year – is numbers. Tech coaches have stated that they would like to bring in a handful of QB prospects each year. The best in the class would remain a QB and the others would be candidates for position changes. That should be an interesting and exciting process to follow in the coming seasons.
In the meantime, with the numbers at QB low for now, Shaw and Washington will have great opportunities to show early on that they can be called on to contribute at the position.
Thanks to Scott Kennedy, and Rod Mackenzie for contributions to this article!