ATLANTA — With less than a week to go before season opener against No. 25 Tennessee, Georgia Tech still hasn’t revealed who will start at quarterback.
That’s not to say coach Paul Johnson is struggling with a decision.
Coy as always, Johnson indicated Tuesday that he knows who will get the nod when the Yellow Jackets take on the Volunteers in the second of two Chick-fil-A Kickoff games at Atlanta’s new Mercedes-Benz Stadium .
But it looks as though he’ll wait until the first offensive series Monday night to let everyone else in on the secret.
“We may play all four of ’em in the first game,” Johnson said with a smile.
Junior Matthew Jordan is the most experienced of four candidates who battled through spring practice and into the preseason for the chance to replace three-year starter Justin Thomas at the most important position in the triple-option offense.
But Johnson’s reluctance to name a starter might be an indication that he’s going in a different direction, at least for the first game. If that’s the case, junior TaQuon Marshall would likely be the next man up. Then again, given Johnson’s penchant for catching people totally off guard, don’t rule out Lucas Johnson or Jay Jones, a pair of redshirt freshmen.
Jordan is by the most experienced of the candidates. He was Thomas’ backup the last two years, and even stepped in to lead Georgia Tech to an upset victory at Virginia Tech in 2016. Marshall played nine games at running back as a freshman, then shifted to quarterback last season, appearing in two games as a third-stringer.
“Matthew is a little older. He probably has a better understanding of what we’re trying to do than anybody else,” Johnson said. “But I think I could call a game for any of ’em.”
Georgia Tech released an updated depth chart that shows all four players in bold lettering, indicating each still has a shot at starting. And, looking to ensure that no one discussed what they’ve been told behind closed doors, the school said none of the four would be available for interviews after practice Tuesday.
“Our guys know who’s going to play, and I probably know who’s going to play,” Johnson said. “I might send it out on Twitter here in a day or two. Who knows? We’ll get through a couple of more practices and it’ll be one of these four guys. I promise.”
The coach has settled on a starting B-back, a position that suddenly came open a couple of weeks ago when the top returning rusher, Dedrick Mills , was kicked off the team for violating athletic department rules.
Sophomore KirVonte Benson, who has never carried the ball in a college game, beat out Quaide Weimerskirch, Jerry Howard and Jordan Ponchez-Mason.
“He’s probably the fastest guy we’ve had a B-back,” Johnson said of the new starter. “I think he’s got a good skillset for it. Will he play fast and tough? We’ll see. If not, one of those others guys will play.”
It will certainly be difficult to replace Mills, a dynamic player who was MVP of the TaxSlayer Bowl in what turned out to be his final college game. Georgia Tech also lost its second-leading rusher, Marcus Marshall, who decided to transfer at the end of last season when it looked as though he would be stuck behind Mills on the depth chart.
Johnson shrugged off the losses.
“Look, we played two guys a year ago. One had over 700 yards and one had almost 700 yards. The guy who plays this year will have much or more,” the coach vowed. “Certain guys played last year. They were good players, but it’s not like, ‘Oh my god, let’s cancel the season because we don’t have them.’ Remember, they were unknown when they played a year ago.”
Johnson has yet to name a starting kicker, either. Freshman Brenton King was recruited to take over for four-year starter Harrison Butker, but sophomore Shawn Davis is apparently still in the mix.
“I probably know who I’m going to use there, too,” Johnson said. “We’ll kick right up until the time we play and if it changes, it changes.”
The punting job is settled. Freshman Pressley Harvin III earned the spot over redshirt freshman Shea Underwood.
Now, about that quarterback.
“I’m not in any big hurry,’” Johnson said, “to tell everybody who it is.”