As a redshirt freshman, Georgia Tech quarterback Tobias Oliver has proved himself in limited opportunities in six games. When the Yellow Jackets play Virginia Tech on Thursday night, indications are that Oliver will be the starter.
Prior to the game, Oliver was taking snaps with the first-team offense, while TaQuon Marshall ran the second-string offense.
Leading to the game, there have been indications that coach Paul Johnson would give Oliver the nod in place of Marshall as the Jackets return to play after an open date last week. Marshall has started 18 games in a row since the start of the 2017 game, including Tech’s last game, a 28-14 loss to Duke on Oct. 13 that dropped the Jackets’ record to 3-4.
He has been productive as a ballcarrier, but has had some challenges with ball security and executing the option.
Playing the position has also taken a physical toll on Marshall, who was temporarily knocked out of the game against South Florida with a toe injury and also was taken out of the Duke game with an upper-body injury and did not return.
Johnson said Wednesday on a teleconference that Marshall has been cleared to play. Asked if he would start, Johnson replied, “I don’t know. Why wouldn’t he?”
Told that there was word that Marshall might not start, Johnson didn’t answer definitively, replying, “You know what? My dad used to tell me, ‘Be careful. Don’t believe anything you hear and half of what you see, and you might be all right.’”
Oliver has been highly productive when given playing time. On the field for 17 full possessions, Oliver has run 64 times for 445 yards and seven touchdowns. He has completed four of nine passes for 62 yards and a touchdown. His 6.95 yards-per-carry average ranks second among all quarterbacks nationally, a rate boosted by runs of 39, 34, 62 and 65 yards.
“We run the offense when Tobias goes out there,” Johnson said on his radio show Monday in response to a question if Oliver’s grasp of the offense had increased over the course of the season. “There’s certain things that maybe better fit his skill set. I think when he’s had to go in and play, he’s responded and done well.”
The Jackets also scored a touchdown on one more of the 17 possessions for a total of nine. Further, of those 17 drives, three of them were to run out the clock in wins over Alcorn State, Bowling Green and Louisville.
Were Oliver to be the No. 1 quarterback against the Hokies, it would continue a pattern of backup playing quarterbacks having a primary role in Jackets’ games at Lane Stadium. In 2010, Tevin Washington came in for Josh Nesbitt after he broke his arm in what proved to be a 28-21 loss. In 2016, with starter Justin Thomas out an injury, backup Matthew Jordan led the Jackets to a 30-20 upset of the No. 14 Hokies in one of the more unlikely wins in Johnson’s tenure.