ATLANTA — Georgia Tech has finally decided on a starting quarterback.
But the Yellow Jackets won’t publicly say who earned the nod until this weekend’s season opener at Florida State.
“We have named the Q,” offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude said. “You guys will find out Saturday who it is.”
James Graham, a sophomore, and Jeff Sims, a freshman, appear to be the leading candidates, with Jordan Yates and Tucker Gleason filling in the depth chart behind them.
Graham started the final eight games last season, but he completed just 45.1% of his passes, last in the Atlantic Coast Conference among quarterbacks with at least 40 attempts.
Even so, Patenaude, who also is Georgia Tech’s quarterbacks coach, was effusive when asked to describe how much Graham has grown entering his second full season.
“The thing that’s really been encouraging is that his understanding is so much higher,” Patenaude said. “He knows where to go with the ball, and when you know where to go with the ball, you play with so much confidence. He made a couple of throws [this week] that he never would’ve made last year just because he understood where to go with the ball, the timing of the throw and the coverage.
“He stung a couple of balls in there that he physically could always do but just mentally didn’t understand enough and the football piece wasn’t high enough where he knew where to go with the ball. Now he does and he’s playing at really high level.”
Sims, in his first summer camp, has impressed with his arm strength. He was recruited out of Sandalwood High in Jacksonville, Florida.
“When it all goes the right way, he looks as good as anybody in the country,” Patenaude said before adding that when “he throws with good balance and really understands where the ball should go, the ball comes out of his hands and it looks really, really good.”
Patenaude has no immediate plans to use two quarterbacks against Florida State unless the starter gets rattled and needs some time to settle down on the sideline.
“The plan would be to go in and let the starter roll and hopefully he’s flying around and making plays,” he said. “But I would certainly not be against taking a guy out and putting a guy in and letting somebody settle down or see something different.”
Either quarterback must help the Yellow Jackets, who finished 3-9 last season, get off to good start. Last year’s unit finished worst in the red zone among 130 FBS schools and was fourth-worst in average total yards, sixth-worst in third-down percentage and seventh-worst in passing.
“The starter is getting the majority of the reps, and the second and third guys are kind of splitting the rest of them,” Patenaude said. “I’m really happy with their development, and I’m really excited to see this dude play Saturday and I think you guys will be excited, too.”