James Graham will be in top spot at quarterback for Georgia Tech

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 28: James Graham #4 of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets throws a pass in the third quarter against the Temple Owls at Lincoln Financial Field on September 28, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Temple Owls defated the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 24-2. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Georgia Tech will have a new No. 1 quarterback when the Yellow Jackets play North Carolina on Saturday. Redshirt freshman James Graham will ascend to the top spot, according to a person familiar with the situation.

Graham follows Tobias Oliver and Lucas Johnson, who both started two of the team’s first four games. Johnson was not listed on the team’s “Above the Line” depth chart, likely because of an upper-body injury suffered in Tech’s loss to The Citadel on Sept. 14. Oliver, who started against Clemson and Temple, could have another role in the offense. He also has played slot receiver and returned kickoffs.

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Graham earned his most extended playing time in the Jackets’ 24-2 loss at Temple on Saturday in relief of Oliver. Graham was 10-for-24 passing for 100 yards and an interception against the Owls in two-plus quarters of play. Not eye-popping numbers, but he showed playmaking ability and a powerful arm capable of stretching the field. He led three Tech drives inside the Temple 30-yard line, although none yielded points. He had only been cleared to play after a foot injury on the Wednesday before the game.

“I felt pretty good,” Graham said after the game. “But I had a few overthrown balls. Just the basic fundamentals, I’ve got to do in the game what I do in practice. Just take it to the game and we’ll be alright.”

On Tuesday, offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude called Graham’s performance “inconsistent,” saying he mixed “NFL throws” and passes “into the third row.” He further said that Graham still “needs to take 10 more steps before he really understands what he’s doing, and he’s really going to be prolific.”

Overall, he gave the impression of a coach ready to give Graham more of an opportunity.

“I think we’re on the right track, and I think you can have a special player with No. 4 throwing it around,” he said.

The challenge for Graham and the Tech offense Saturday will be considerable. UNC defensive coordinator Jay Bateman has a reputation for disguising pass coverages and blitzing from all angles.

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