Haynes King named Georgia Tech starting quarterback

Brent Key was adamant Tuesday that there are no gray areas in his program. Thus, he made the decision Monday to name a starting quarterback and told Haynes King and Zach Pyron that the Yellow Jackets would be riding with King, a Texas A&M transfer, to start the season.

“Black and white, to the point, we don’t sugarcoat things,” Key said. “I don’t believe in sugarcoating any message, much less a message that deals with who the starting quarterback on this football team is going to be as well as when you’re dealing with kids that are 18-21, 22 years old. There’s no sugarcoating. It’s direct, it’s why and what needs to continue to be worked on and move forward from there.”

“It was the time. It was the right time. There’s no decision that I’ve made in the program to this point that has been made quickly. They’ve all been very though-out, very looked-over, done in-depth so that myself, as a head coach, when I go to sleep at night I know I’ve made the right decision for this time.”

King and the Yellow Jackets open the season at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 1 against Louisville at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

King had been in competition, mainly, with redshirt freshman Zach Pyron this month in preseason camp. King transferred to Tech in January, and Key said that since Jan. 6 all his quarterbacks had been under constant scrutiny and evaluation in their competition to win the starting job.

A 6-foot-3, 204-pound native of Longview, Texas, King has been named a starter before – but that was in College Station, Texas, at different times in both 2021 and 2022. His career with the Aggies included a 1,220-yard passing season in 2022 that saw him complete seven touchdown passes.

King threw for 253 yards and two scores last year against Alabama, and in a season-opening win over Sam Houston State, King threw for 364 yards and three scores.

“Played and started a lot of games in the SEC,” Tech quarterbacks coach Chris Weinke said this month of King. “Obviously battled and challenged with some injuries but has overcome those. I think his football IQ is off the charts. He’s the son of a long-time high school coach, it’s really important to him, and there’s no doubt he has toughness.”

King was considered a four-star recruit out of Longview (Texas) High and had nearly 30 scholarship offers before deciding to play for Texas A&M. He played in two games briefly in 2020, broke his leg early in the 2021 season and then lost his starting job toward the end of the 2022 season.

He said earlier this month his experience playing in multiple offensive systems, from high school to college, is a bonus for him.

“The knowledge of the game, that will help me as well,” King said. “I can move, but I don’t like to move when it’s not necessary. You don’t want a quarterback just scrambling and taking a lot of hits. I’m going to sit in the pocket, know where everyone is going, distribute the ball here and there to the right places. If I do need to move, I’ll move, I’ll scramble, get up vertical and get what I need.”

Key said he told King and Pyron of his decision Monday. Key also informed the team’s leadership and told King and Pyron he would inform the media of the decision Tuesday.

Pyron, a 6-foot-3, 208-pound graduate of Pinson Valley (Ala.) High, played in three games in 2022 and made two starts. He completed 59.8% of his 82 throws, connected on three touchdowns and was picked off three times.

Pyron came off the bench in a 41-16 loss to Florida State on Oct. 29, then led the Yellow Jackets to a 28-27 victory at Virginia Tech the following week. He threw for 253 yards and a score and ran for 66 yards and a touchdown in that win.

A 35-14 loss to Miami in November included Pyron leaving the game with a broken clavicle. He returned in time for spring practice and went 11-for-15 passing for 153 yards and a touchdown in the team’s annual spring game.

“Haynes King is the starter, make no bones about it,” Key said. “That’s why we made the decision, that’s why we brought them in and told them both face to face, man to man. I’m not putting him on the short leash. I don’t want the starting quarterback to go out there and feel like if he makes one mistake he’s going to get yanked. That’s not the world we’re living in. I’m not doing that.

“Both guys will have to be prepared. Both guys will have to be prepared. We can win with both players. The amount of improvement both those guys have made over the course of the entire offseason has been outstanding. And both guys have a bright future. Make no mistake, Zach Pyron is a heck of a quarterback. He’s going to play really good football here at Georgia Tech.”

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