Paul Johnson has been around long enough to have witnessed starter-backup relationships worthy of a bad reality show.
“I’ve seen older guys who wouldn’t offer to help the younger guys with any kind of advice or any kind of help,” he said. “You’ve seen it all through the years.”
The Georgia Tech coach has his share of problems this season. As fan and media attention is trained on starting quarterback Tevin Washington and backup Vad Lee, at least one headache he doesn’t have is tension between the two.
“As bad as things have gotten for ‘Tev’ and how people are, ‘Oh, he’s not doing this,’ he’s still trying his best to help Vad and he’s trying to help Vad prepare,” B-back David Sims said. “And, Vad, he tries to help give (Washington) tips, as well.”
As Tech prepares to play Maryland Saturday, Washington and Lee are competing in practice for the starting job against the Terrapins. Both players have worked with the first- and second strings. It is a shakeup of the order that has held firm since Washington became the starter in the 10th game of the 2010 season. He replaced Joshua Nesbitt after he broke his arm against Virginia Tech. Washington has started the past 25 consecutive games and been unchallenged.
The season has been a tumultuous ride. Washington is statistically improved and he is operating the No. 28 scoring offense in the country, but the Yellow Jackets are 3-5. Against BYU Saturday, Washington failed to lead the offense to points and was replaced by Lee late in the third quarter. Johnson, who has been trying to find snaps for the promising redshirt freshman, had hoped the offense would first find its rhythm with Washington, but said “it just became apparent that it wasn’t working” with Washington.
Boos, perhaps directed at Johnson, pelted Washington and the offense as they left the field following an interception by the senior. Lee took the field to cheers that only grew with each successive advancement.
On his first drive, Lee led Tech to a field goal before the Jackets punted on their final two possessions of the 41-17 loss. After Wednesday’s practice, Johnson said the decision on a starter will be made after the week of practice ends Thursday.
“I’ll make one by the time we play,” Johnson said.
The drama has not managed to ruffle either, at least outwardly.
“I’ve sat in a lot of meetings with them and watched ’em practice and I think they pull for each other,” Johnson said. “I don’t think there’s any animosity there.”
Lee is no Machiavellian schemer, plotting his advancement.
“I’m not a fan of (the booing) because he works hard every day,” said Lee, who sits next to Washington in position meetings. “He comes to practice and gives his all. In the games, he gives his all.”
Washington, who had to wait 2 ½ years before he got his turn, understands Lee’s plight.
“I was there in his shoes four years ago, too,” Washington said. “I know how he feels being the backup. I know how he wants to play. I’ve been there. I know exactly how he feels.”
With three years separating the two, they are closer with their peers than each other, but get along without problem. Washington said that Lee knows he can come to him with questions about anything, football or otherwise. Washington, who has interned at a law firm the past two years, counseled Lee this summer on networking with Tech alumni and seeking internships.
“They’re great kids,” quarterbacks and B-backs coach Brian Bohannon said. “They really are. There’s not a mean bone in either one of their bodies.”
Sims, a former quarterback who shares Bohannon and meetings with the quarterbacks, compares the two to a more famous set of quarterbacks.
“It’s still been a pretty positive relationship, sorta kinda like how (Tim) Tebow and (Mark) Sanchez say they deal with each other,” Sims said, referring to the New York Jets’ ballyhooed tandem. “But it’s actual reality with us.”
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Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog