Saturday, April 2, 2011

Georgia Tech Spring Practice: Who Will Replace Joshua Nesbitt?

The Yellow Jackets began their Spring Practice on Monday trying to bounce back from a disappointing 2010 season. Complacency is a word that has been used often to describe what caused the defending ACC Champions to fall to a losing record.

Head Coach Paul Johnson hopes the word to describe this spring is competition.

The most important competition this spring will be at the Quarterback position. This position plays a different role in Johnson's offense than most you see in college football, but its importance is just the same.

Gone is Joshua Nesbitt who led Tech to 25 wins in his three seasons as a starter. After Nesbitt went down with a season ending injury at Virginia Tech the Yellow Jackets took a nose dive losing four of their final five games finishing with the first losing season since 1996.

Tevin Washington, who started the final four games, is the incumbent as Johnson iterated at the beginning of this week, but redshirt freshman Synjyn Days will get a long look as well.

"Tevin is the starter coming in. He earned that," Johnson told reporters on Monday. "I don't get too hyped up on freshman. Until they show they can do it on the field, I don't want to hype them all that much. Synjyn has a lot of ability. But he's got to beat Tevin out. It's Tevin's job."

This competition figures to be a two horse race. David Sims played some at QB last year, but will be used primarily at B-Back and maybe even WR this spring. I get the feeling Sims is a good enough athlete Johnson wants to find a way to get him on the field somewhere, but he lacks the precision at QB to play significant snaps.

The battle between Washington and Days is a classic case of experience vs natural ability.

Washington played in eight games last season, starting four, and is entering his fourth season in Johnson's spread option offense. He performed admirably at the end of 2010, but lacked big play ability and arm strength to be a true difference maker. Still, you cannot underestimate his comfort level in the offense and the advantage that gives him early on.

Days has never taken a snap at the collegiate level, but has plenty of potential and promise. The Marietta product has the size and athleticism to be a star, but nobody truly knows how that potential translates to a game. The redshirt freshman's offer list was not overly impressive (Oklahoma State and Indiana were the main suitors), but most schools were recruiting him to play defensive back instead of QB. Days spent last season running the scout offense and was impressive enough in practice for Johnson to consider burning his redshirt had Nesbitt's injury occurred earlier in the season.

In order to keep his job as the starter, Washington will have to show an improved ability to break long runs as well as increased arm strength and accuracy.

For Days to supplant Washington he will have to show he has a better command of the offense making the correct reads and check downs.

Those who want to read into depth charts post spring may be disappointed to see Washington's name listed first after the spring game. Days certainly has hype surrounding him but this will be his first extended action in the offense and judging freshman before they hit the field can be like watching the infantry marching to battle; everything looks great until the bullets start flying.

However, not winning the job in the spring does not preclude Days from further competition. I strongly suspect the starting spot will not be set in stone over the next three weeks and the competition will extend into fall practice when true freshman Vad Lee and Demon Smith will enter the mix.

The QB position has the most impact of any on the offense. Johnson wants these Quarterbacks to push each other to get better and maximize their impact. This level of competition should help avoid the complacency of last year and propel the team to a better 2011.

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