Georgia Tech will not have quarterback Lucas Johnson available for the Yellow Jackets’ game Saturday against Temple in Philadelphia, according to a person familiar with the situation.
Johnson, who started the past two games for the Jackets, suffered what appeared to be a shoulder injury in Tech’s overtime loss to The Citadel on Sept. 14, although he returned to play in the game.
Without Johnson, the starting job for the game against the Owls almost certainly belongs to Tobias Oliver, who started in the season opener against Clemson and has run the ball effectively in the Jackets’ first three games while playing in a quarterback rotation with Johnson and James Graham. Oliver has run 40 times for 196 yards, a 4.9 yards-per-carry average, while completing seven of 15 passes for 103 yards with two interceptions.
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In the first three games, Tech has used Oliver and Johnson in a rotation, with Graham playing to a lesser degree. Johnson and Oliver have sometimes played them in the same series, with Johnson often replacing Oliver in passing situations. Johnson missed all of the 2018 season with a foot injury, but has come back to earn the trust of offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude. He has completed 16 of 29 passes for 136 yards with one touchdown and one interception while running 17 times for 42 yards.
Oliver also played often in 2018 as the backup to TaQuon Marshall. Most notably, he made one start, at Virginia Tech, when he ran 40 times for 215 yards and three touchdowns.
In the game against The Citadel, Oliver was sharp, running 11 times for 92 yards while completing two of three passes for 27 yards and also effectively running the option. Moreover, he also returned two kickoffs for 92 yards. Patenaude said that Oliver graded out for the game with a 90.
“And nobody grades out as a 90,” Patenaude said. “So he played fantastic.”
It’s not clear if Graham will be available to play. Graham did not play in the game against The Citadel because of a foot injury. Should Graham not be available, the likely backup would be freshman Jordan Yates, who has yet to play. Yates’ main game-day contribution to this point has been signaling in plays from the sideline.
Patenaude said this week that Graham is “an electric athlete with a really, really good arm” who has made significant progress in recent weeks in understanding Tech’s offensive scheme.
“For a quarterback, when you can answer the ‘why’ (of the offense), that’s the biggest question that you have,” Patenaude said.
Yates took a significant amount of practice reps during the open week, Patenaude said.
“He’s just a playmaker,” Patenaude said. “Really good little athlete, and has a good understanding of what we’re doing.”
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