Georgia Tech wrapped it in a nice new package — a spring football game on a Friday night in the big city — but inside was still a spring football game. There was live music (and not just the pep-band stuff) before and after, and there were postgame fireworks, and an announced crowd of 18,125 was on hand to see …
Spring football. Which meant nothing much was revealed.
If you’re a Tech fan and you were hoping for a quarterback to unseat incumbent Tevin Washington, you left disappointed. If you’re a Washington fan and you were rooting for your man to lap the field, you didn’t get your wish. The QB situation at GT remained SQ (status quo): Washington is surely the starter unless/until Synjyn Days or Vad Lee snatches the job from him, and it’s unthinkable that any such theft will occur before the Jackets open at Virginia Tech on Labor Day night.
Let’s be honest: Days, who’ll be a redshirt sophomore, has played little, and Lee, who’ll be a redshirt freshman, hasn’t played in a game — unless you count this episode of Friday Night Lights, which you shouldn’t — since high school. To start either against the Hokies would be foolish, and if there’s one thing Paul Johnson isn’t, it’s a fool.
It isn’t that Days and Lee are untalented. Days is a better runner than Washington, and Lee is a better passer. But the quarterback in Johnson’s offense doesn’t just have to play the game — he has to read it and respond accordingly. The option is predicated, duh, on having options. On familiarity alone, a quarterback who has started 17 collegiate games (winning nine) will surely trump challengers who haven’t proved they know when to keep and when to pitch.
The White led the Gold 3-0 at the half, the three points coming on a 42-yard field goal by David Scully on the final play of the second quarter. (See what happens when you hire a special teams coordinator?) The drive was led by Days, and before then there hadn’t been much driving for either hue.
The second half began with Days changing jerseys — you only get this stuff in a spring game, folks — and fumbling the ball. Corey Dennis returned it for a touchdown to give the White side a 10-0 lead. To that point, the spring game’s real winner had been defensive coordinator Al Groh, who’s no spring chicken.
Washington finally led the White to a touchdown, which was probably best for all concerned. A head coach who prides himself on offensive scheming wouldn’t have been in the mood to appreciate fireworks after a spring game that ended 10-0. And Johnson, as we’ve seen, takes an even more hands-on role on these occasions.
For spring games, PJ stations himself in the middle of the field and call plays for both squads. (On this night he wore blue shorts and a gray hoodie, making him look like Bill Belichick at the beach. Not that Bill Belichick is ever a day at the beach.) In the first half, Johnson used his prime perch to upbraid two offensive linemen who’d missed blocks.
Having migrated from Gold to White, Lee presided over two scoring drives of his own. The White, comprised mostly of the first-string offense, would win 31-7, and it scored while being led by three different quarterbacks. Which meant nothing changed.
If Tech had to play a real game tomorrow, Johnson said Washington would be the starter: “He has the most experience and the best understanding of the offense.” And Days and Lee? “They’re situational players right now. The idea is to make them not be situational players.”
It’s possible to imagine Lee, who does have a nice arm, becoming the Tech quarterback when the Jackets trail by 14 points with five minutes left. It’s also possible to envision Days as a change-of-pace guy. What’s not possible is to imagine either being the No. 1 quarterback come September. That’s still Tevin Washington’s job.
By Mark Bradley