Tech’s Thomas, with a little help, can have a big rebound season

Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas talks up the prospects of the 2016 season, with his center, Freddie Burden, this time behind him. (Hyosub Shin/hshin@ajc.com)

Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas talks up the prospects of the 2016 season, with his center, Freddie Burden, this time behind him. (Hyosub Shin/hshin@ajc.com)

The best words to come out of Saturday’s media mosh at Georgia Tech? Aside from Paul Johnson’s surprisingly entertaining and illuminating take on body fat, that is.

Here’s a vote for a few words from a man of few words, Yellow Jackets quarterback Justin Thomas.

“I expect to have a big season, but I can’t do it by myself,” the senior trigger man of the triple option said. A very simple sentiment, but quite a meaningful one given Thomas’ history at Tech.

When surrounded by a core of dependable playmakers in 2014, Thomas flourished. And thus did Tech, culminating with an Orange Bowl victory.

When injuries cut through his backfield like a highway chain gang, and his best receivers (yes, even the Tech offense requires someone occasionally catch the ball) moved on, Thomas took on some shades of ordinary. The more he tried to take on himself, the more the efficiency of his play suffered. The result when your most important player backslides: Three victories and no bowl game for the first time since 1996

The numerical differences for the quarterback between ’14 and ’15 spoke to problems: Thomas’ yards per carry plummeted (from 5.7 yards to 3.4); his interceptions were up (from six to eight); his combined touchdowns were down (from 26 to 19). The third-down conversion rate took a major hit, from 58 percent in 2014 to just 35 percent last season. Time of possession, another crucial indicator of option offense success, was down an average of three minutes a game from 2014 to ’15.

Funny how that works, eh? Who knew that football was an ensemble production rather than a one-man play?

His coach admitted Saturday that the ever-changing nature of his supporting cast frustrated Thomas last year. “Guys zigged when they should have zagged and he threw it where they should have zagged. It’s easy to go back (to the bench) and say, man, who am I playing with?” Johnson said.

But as a result, “I think he grew up a lot last year,” Johnson said.

On top of reports that the quiet-by-nature quarterback has tried to be more of a forceful leader entering his final season, the thought of a more assured Thomas, one allowed to trust again in those around him (with offensive depth appreciably greater this season), might calm some Tech angst.

The AJC’s Tech beat writer Ken Sugiura was polling players on who they thought might be the break-out performer of the upcoming season. One plucked a familiar name, someone who already has had a break-out season.

“I’m going with Justin Thomas,” receiver Ricky Jeune said. “Two years ago, he had some really great numbers and feel like this year he can match those great numbers.”

There are your second most comforting words from Saturday.

Reader Comments 0

14 comments
TideDawg
TideDawg

Some Tech fans embarrass themselves and GT by referring back to "We beat Ga. back in '14". That's sad so why not preach about the Dodd days when Tech had a great coach and great teams and could beat anybody. Those teams were worthy of the praise. As far as Thomas goes as a quarterback....he's a good QB for PJ's type of offense. However, running QBs don't last very long in today's football because there are 300 lb defensive linemen that can run down a QB. There's always going to be those idiots that scream "We beat you once". The Tech fans that really know the score wait for that "Once" to happen again. It might....but not anytime soon.

UWreckMeBaby
UWreckMeBaby

@TideDawg Whats embarrassing are "fans" who cannot decide who their favorite team is. Or are you just covering your butt so when UGA tanks again, so you can put on your Bama hat and strut around Walmart with your head held high? 

dawg fan
dawg fan

@UWreckMeBaby What are you talking about hypocrite?  Tech fans have two favorite teams too:  Their own and whoever is playing Georgia.  Actually you nerds root more for Georgia to lose than you root for your own team to win.  We own your very souls.   

dawg fan
dawg fan

This just in:  Nobody cares.  Only at a joke program like Georgia Tech could this guy be a star.  He'd be doing good to crack the scout team at any legit program.  Kirby's making us bigger and stronger.  Your little scat back QB's will be mince meat when we're done with them.  The Richt days of snoozing through games and you clowns thinking you have a chance are over.  It's going to be nothing but PAIN from here on out for a long long time for you nerds.  Hear me now and believe me later.  It's going to be ugly.  Get out now while you can and join a lesser division so you don't have to play us every year.  Just a friendly word of advice.  Thanks.

UWreckMeBaby
UWreckMeBaby

@dawg fan this "joke program" and its "little scat back QB" defeated your highly rated but consistently under-performing butt sniffing puppies as recently as Nov 2014. Finished higher in final polls same year. Has the more recent national title and more total national titles. And you obviously cared enough to click on this GT story. Friendly word of advice - go back to your own blog. And shut up.

dawg fan
dawg fan

@UWreckMeBaby Our last coach was 13-2 against your absolute disgrace of a program but we still fired the guy.  That should tell any person of reasonable intelligence where the Joke by Coke falls in the pecking order.  You're right there with Vandy and Kentucky.  Congrats.  Georgia Tech=JOKE. 

UWreckMeBaby
UWreckMeBaby

@dawg fan @UWreckMeBaby How intelligent is it that you fired the most successful coach in your so-called school's history? (Dooley's fluke Natl Championship notwithstanding). Your delusions of belonging among elite football teams is pathetic!

You recently lost to what you call a "joke". Your team is a bunch of thugs and underachievers. Kirby ain't Saban, Jacob Eason ain't the new Peyton Manning either, as you'll soon find out. 

dawg fan
dawg fan

@UWreckMeBaby I love how Tech fans are now all of the sudden big Richt fans.  He was our "most successful coach ever" they say and we are idiots for firing him.  Yet when he was here they hardly had a kind word to say about the man.  In fact, they would be the first to point out the coaching deficiencies that ultimately led to his firing.  It's just so confusing dealing with Tech fans.  They have very little integrity and aren't very smart.  All they know is attacking Georgia.  It's all they ever know.  Attack.  Attack.  Attack.  Lie.  Lie.  Lie.  It's just sad. 

Turd Burglestein
Turd Burglestein

Tech blows.. 6 wins at best. But at least they graduate players with tangible degrees.

DawgNole
DawgNole

Hope he plays well, and I always (except when they play FSU) hope GT emerges undefeated for that Thanksgiving weekend game.

Would be great to see both UGA and GT highly ranked (for a change) leading up to that biggie.

TOJacket
TOJacket

JT will bounce back with the experience he lacked on his offense last year!!.....he is going to run like the wind blows.....mama said Jackets win 8 this year.

ScooterKelley
ScooterKelley

The blocking all around was subpar last year. An offensive line that was supposed to be a strength highly disappointed, and the A backs couldn't block either. For him to have a great season the supporting cast has to do their jobs. I believe they have great talent at both the A and B back positions and can't wait to see  how the young talent at WR perform. I think 8-4 is a very achievable. Go TECH.

rallo
rallo

don't be too forceful qb, new guys have ego's too, but isn't that why we have great coaches? and why aren't we talking about the GT defense??  use to be THE staple of our teams.  GO TED ROOF!