How Paul Johnson chose to go with TaQuon Marshall

September 4, 2017 Atlanta - Georgia Tech quarterback TaQuon Marshall (16) dives past Tennessee defensive back Rashaan Gaulden (7) for a touchdown in the first half of NCAA college football game at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Monday, September 4, 2017. Tennessee won 42-41 over the Georgia Tech in double overtime. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM



Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson went into spring practice hoping that quarterback Matthew Jordan could solidify the starting job in a four-man competition to succeed Justin Thomas. He left the spring believing TaQuon Marshall was likely his guy.

In the spring, Johnson said Wednesday, Marshall began to separate himself from Jordan and freshmen Lucas Johnson and Jay Jones. He showed the playmaking that the college football world saw Monday night in a record-breaking effort against Tennessee that earned him ACC offensive back of the week honors.

“The moment wasn’t too big for him,” Johnson said. “He just kind of dialed in and focused in and played the game. And that’s encouraging, so hopefully he can grow. Was he perfect? Far from it. He’d be the first to tell you. But he did a lot of really good things.”

In the spring, Marshall benefited from extra practice time and a spot with the first-string offense after Jordan went down midway through spring practice with a foot injury. It was a non-contact injury, suffered when he planted his foot during a scrimmage. That injury shaped the competition for both Jordan and Marshall.

Going into preseason practice, Johnson suggested Wednesday that he was leaning toward Marshall, but wanted to give Jordan a fair shot.

“Because I don’t like to see guys lose their job when they get hurt,” he said. “And when they came back, (Marshall) was just consistently playing at a high level. Now, I will say this for Matthew. The last two weeks of camp, Matthew probably played as good as he had played. He kind of got back into his thing. But I had pretty much already made up my mind.”

After the loss to Tennessee Monday night, Johnson said he had decided about 2 ½ to three weeks ago, which would be the start or middle of the second full week of preseason practice.

After he had made up his mind, Johnson said that Jordan was the first of the quarterbacks that he told, a thoughtful gesture. Johnson said he reminded him that the season is long. Despite Marshall’s hot start against Tennessee, there’s no script for the remaining 11 games.

While he had been hopeful that the starting job would be his, it would not be a surprise that Jordan handled the news maturely. He has faced his share of adversity already, having been diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes at 11. Rather than see it as a reason to complain and shrink, Jordan credits the disease for giving him the discipline that helped him become a straight-A student in high school and an FBS quarterback.

“Matthew’s a great kid, and he’s going to work hard,” Johnson said.

The pilot of the offense, though, is Marshall, whose one-game sample is promising.

“He’s got a good understanding,” Johnson said. “I think he’s got good leadership skills. That’s why we picked him to be the starter.”

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