ATLANTA — Georgia Tech is no different than most teams.
It all comes down to the quarterback.
As the Yellow Jackets reported Thursday for the start of fall practice, they faced one big question: Who will replace three-year starter Justin Thomas?
Matthew Jordan believes he is up to the task.
“Hey, you’ve got to be confident,” he said with a knowing smile.
Jordan certainly has the inside track. He’s a third-year junior who backed up Thomas the last two seasons and has a very impressive win on his resume, leading Georgia Tech to a 30-20 upset at Virginia Tech in the lone start of his career.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time,” Jordan said.
The only thing that has prevented him from claiming the job outright is the presence of some very talented challengers. TaQuon Marshall, redshirt freshmen Lucas Johnson, Jay Jones and incoming freshman Tobias Oliver will also get a crack at the No. 1 spot in the early days of camp.
The depth at quarterback prompted coach Paul Johnson to shrug off any concerns about the most vital position in his triple-option offense.
“We’ve got some talented guys at that position,” Johnson said. “There are other positions I’m worried about a lot more than quarterback.”
Jordan had a bit of setback in spring practice, sustaining a foot injury that knocked him for the final two weeks. But, after undergoing surgery, he recovered quicker than expected and has been fully cleared to participate in all drills and workouts.
While anyone directing Georgia Tech’s offense must have the ability to run, Johnson is also looking for a quarterback who can hit enough passes to keep defenses honest.
Jordan insisted that won’t be a problem for him, even though he was known more as a short-yardage specialist while backing up Thomas.
“I’ve got full confidence in my arm,” he said.
Marshall played the A-back position last season and could wind up returning there if he doesn’t win the quarterback job.
But he’s not thinking about a backup plan.
“I’m not too worried about the race,” Marshall said. “I know there’s a competition in the back of my mind. At the same time, I’m just going to come in, compete, have fun and do my best to get out there and be consistent every day.”
Georgia Tech is looking to build on a strong ending to last season, which included an upset of rival Georgia and a bowl victory over Kentucky. The Yellow Jackets finished 9-4, bouncing back emphatically from a 3-9 mark in 2015.
“The older guys have been on the best and the worst teams,” senior defensive end KeShun Freeman said. “We take a little bit from each season to show where we didn’t focus enough or maybe where we focused too much. We just piece it all together. We take a little bit from each season to motivate us when we’re going into camp and the season.”
The Yellow Jackets open Sept. 4 with a primetime game against Tennessee at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the new $1.6 billion facility in downtown Atlanta.
“That’s cool,” defensive back Lance Austin. “It’s going to be a great game, a great atmosphere, on a Monday night. I’m ready for it.”