A look at Georgia Tech’s position groups going into spring practice, which starts Monday.
Returning: Senior Justin Thomas, sophomore Matthew Jordan.
Lost: Tim Byerly
Incoming: Jay Jones, Lucas Johnson
Georgia Tech’s first priority with the position will be making sure that Thomas and Jordan get out of spring practice with their health. It’s a primary reason why coach Paul Johnson said that Thomas will again be in a non-contact jersey, which is standard for just about every college team but unusual for Tech.
With Christian Campbell moving to safety after a redshirt freshman season at quarterback, Jordan will have plenty of practice repetitions to improve under the care of quarterbacks and B-backs coach Bryan Cook. Jordan has the tools to be successful in this offense and appears dedicated to that task, and should benefit from the experience and instruction he’ll get running the offense this spring.
Like all quarterbacks for Tech, he has some agility and toughness. His only significant action came last season in the 38-21 loss at Miami, when he came in for Thomas after he left the game with an upper-body injury early in the game. The overriding memory of the game was the ball-security challenges that Tech and Jordan had in the game, but he showed flashes where he moved the offense effectively.
“I think Matthew, just from being around him so much for the past two or three years since he’s been there, I think the kid’s very hard-nosed and very tough,” former quarterback Tim Byerly said. “He’s certainly faster than me. I think he’s faster than most people give him credit for. I think he shaved off some weight a little bit, and we’ll see where that takes him.”
With an extra month of recuperation due to the Yellow Jackets not making a bowl game, Johnson said that Thomas is the healthiest that he has been at Tech.
“That’s one of the things you do gain (in missing a bowl),” Johnson said. “You miss the practice, but you gain time in the weight room.”
Thomas can use the spring to develop a rapport with the running backs and receivers both in the run and pass game, which was a factor in the problems the offense had with fumbling and efficiency. He would seem to have trust and connection with wide receiver Ricky Jeune. The more he can feed the ball to other receivers, starting with Brad Stewart, the more effective the offense can become.
Byerly advised against not sleeping on Chase Martenson, a walk-on and rising sophomore.
“I think every spring (practice) that we’ve had, every scrimmage, when you throw Chase in there, he’ll make plays,” Byerly said.
“Well, he wants to play. He doesn’t see himself beating out Justin. It’s like I told him. I said, ‘Well, the guy you’ve got to beat out is Matthew.’ He’s like, Coach, I’d like to play safety. I’m like, O.K. It’s been my experience, when they want to play somewhere else, if you don’t allow it, you’re defeating your own purpose.” – Johnson on Campbell moving to safety