When Haynes King was told earlier this week he would be Georgia Tech’s starting quarterback when the Yellow Jackets take the field against Louisville on Sept. 1 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, he only had one reaction, a big smile.
“I was excited,” King said Wednesday after practice. “It was a tough battle. Zach Pyron and Zach Gibson, we’re brothers now. We’re part of this Georgia Tech family. Definitely couldn’t have done it without them because without competition, you get complacent. They pushed me to the max, to the limit. It was a hard decision, and at the end of the day, I came out on top. I just had a big smile on my face.
“Not necessarily relieved because at the end of the day I was going to trust in God, trust in the coaches to make the right decision. They went with me, so I just had a big smile on my face. I was happy, ready to go play.”
King, a transfer from Texas A&M, arrived at Tech in January and immediately began competing with Pyron and Gibson to be the No. 1 quarterback going into the 2023 season. That competition revved up this month with the start of preseason practice, where King emerged as the front-runner toward the end of preseason camp.
A 6-foot-3, 204-pound sophomore, King also was named the starting quarterback at A&M during the 2021 and 2022 preseasons. He enters his first campaign with the Jackets having appeared in 10 career games, totaling 1,579 passing yards and 10 touchdowns for the Aggies. Seven of his 10 career interceptions came during the 2022 season.
King rushed for 83 yards and a score last season as well.
But those numbers are behind King as he now has a clean slate with Tech. And although he won the starting quarterback job before the opener, he said Wednesday he’s not going to become complacent in fighting for playing time.
“It’s not behind us. You have to grind and compete every day,” King said. “He’s coming for my spot – both (Pyron and Gibson) are. Just got to come out and compete every day. Got to know what’s going on and be prepared mentally and physically.”
Running backs ready to go
Tech should have its full complement of running backs available for the season opener, Key said Tuesday.
Trey Cooley, a Louisville transfer, had been somewhat limited in practice at times this month but returned to full participation this week. Key said he and Dontae Smith, along with former wide receiver Jamal Haynes, could all be featured in the opener.
“They were back out there all full-speed (Tuesday),” Key said. “There might have been one day where one guy went and moved forward and the other ones didn’t. The next day it’s another guy. The nature of that position is it’s a position where guys get banged up, they get bumps and bruises and those things. It will be running back by committee, for sure.”
Smith rushed for 420 yards in 2022 and finished with a team-leading five touchdowns on the ground. Cooley had a solid freshman season for Louisville in 2021 when he totaled 431 yards on the ground and scored a touchdown against Air Force in the First Responder Bowl. Haynes made the move from receiver to running back this month.
Five Jackets on Senior Bowl watch list
The Senior Bowl announced its watch list for its 2024 game, and five Jackets made the cut.
Safety LaMiles Brooks, offensive lineman Jordan Williams, defensive lineman Sylvain Yondjouen, tight end Dylan Leonard and defensive back Kenyatta Watson are among those who initially will be considered for the annual all-star game scheduled for Feb. 3 in Mobile, Alabama.
The Senior Bowl has been played for the past 74 years and often features many of the top future NFL draft picks.
Jaylon King on Comeback Player of the Year watch list
Tech defensive back Jaylon King is one of 100 players on the watch list for the Comeback Player of the Year award administered by the College Sports Communicators organization in association with The Associated Press and Fiesta Bowl.
King started the first five games of the 2022 season at strong safety for the Jackets. He totaled 32 tackles (including 1.5 for loss), made an interception, forced a fumble and recorded a pass breakup before sustaining a serious leg injury that required season-ending surgery. He finished 11th on the team in tackles.
King has played in 40 career games and has made eight starts at safety, racking up 91 tackles (5.5 for loss).
At the conclusion of the season, three recipients will be selected by a panel of college football writers, editors and sports information directors. The winners will be honored at the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1 in Glendale, Arizona.
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC