Georgia Tech’s James Graham appears close to regaining eligibility

Georgia Tech quarterback James Graham talks with media following the Yellow Jackets' spring-practice workout on March 28, 2019.

Georgia Tech quarterback James Graham talks with media following the Yellow Jackets' spring-practice workout on March 28, 2019.

Georgia Tech quarterback James Graham had a nonchalant attitude about his academics when he arrived as a freshman last year, and he paid the price by falling academically ineligible after the fall semester. Speaking Thursday following the team’s second practice of the preseason, Graham spoke optimistically about regaining his eligibility and getting on better footing in the classroom.

“Coming in, I really wasn’t focused on grades,” Graham said. “I was just coming in. I knew I was a good player in football, (but) I wasn’t really sure what I was going to get myself into the first year, and I didn’t do as good as I wanted in the classroom and it shows. But now I’m on the right road and about to show the world what’s up.”

Graham had a rough first semester, which left him needing to make up 14 credits to regain his eligibility. (The total is why coach Geoff Collins took away his No. 4 jersey and reassigned him No. 14, Graham’s mother Bridget Daniels said.)

Graham was discouraged and contemplated transferring.

“I told him, ‘You can’t just give up,’” Daniels said. “I said, ‘What you can do is buckle down because anything worth having isn’t going to be easy to come by. For you to be given another chance, obviously they see something in you as well.’”

To recover, Graham took on a heavier course load with a mix of online courses and traditional classes. He reduced his focus on football in the spring and put it more on schoolwork. He was more conscientious about attending study groups, his mother said. Graham credited coach Geoff Collins and offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude for helping him get back on track, as well as wide receiver Malachi Carter.

Graham said he had an exam Wednesday and expects to learn his fate soon. He said he had two classes this summer, both of which he described as “pretty rough.”

“I feel really good about the results,” he said. “I’m just praying that everything works out.”

Said Daniels, “I’m just glad they gave him the chance to redeem himself.”

On the field, Graham is competing for playing time at quarterback with Lucas Johnson, Tobias Oliver and freshman Jordan Yates. Last season, he played in three games (enabling him to retain his redshirt), running five times for 27 yards and completing his only pass, a throwback to quarterback TaQuon Marshall for 22 yards.

While he was not as invested in the spring as he might otherwise have been, Graham put in work in the summer to learn the scheme and throw to receivers such as Carter, Adonicas Sanders, Ahmarean Brown and Jalen Camp. Graham said it’s fun to be so knowledgeable about the offense that other teammates are now asking him what to do.

“He was the first one answering the questions in the meeting the other night,” Patenaude said, “and he really put in a lot of hard work over the summer and in the spring to kind of really figure out what he is.”

One thing he isn’t, apparently, is No. 14.

“I was actually 2 in high school, but I’ll be 4 August 29 (the date of the season opener against Clemson),” he said.