Tech star Vad Lee is expected to take the reins of the quarterback position this fall for the Yellow Jackets, who have high expectations for the sophomore. Lee was part of Georgia Tech’s highest-scoring ACC game in school history when the Yellow Jackets romped against North Carolina, 68-50.
GREENSBORO, N.C. — Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson wants the world to know. Vad Lee does not have an “S” on his chest.
Speaking at ACC Media Days, Johnson cautioned against the hype that is growing around the sophomore quarterback, who is expected to take the reins of the Tech offense when the Yellow Jackets go to camp Aug. 1.
“I think he's a gifted young man. He's got some tools and he's a hard worker,” Johnson said. “So my big thing is, let's not just build him up so much that he can't (reach expectations), that he's going to fail. If you're not careful, the expectations become so high that Superman couldn't reach them.”
Tech fans have been eagerly awaiting Lee since he was recruited out of Durham, N.C. A dual-threat quarterback, Lee offered hope of opening up the Tech offense with an improved passing game. The drumbeat grew louder last year. As a second-stringer behind Tevin Washington, Lee showed flashes of his promise, most notably in a 68-50 win over North Carolina.
That game was the most points Tech has ever scored in an ACC game.
“It doesn't make me uneasy,” Johnson said. “I just think to be fair to Vad, you can't set the expectations to where they're unrealistic.”
That said, Johnson added that Lee will have to learn to handle the expectations of fans, fair or not.
“Because, you know what? The first time he throws an incompletion, 25 percent of the stadium is going to be yelling for (backup) Justin Thomas,” Johnson said. “The backup is always the most popular guy on the team. Until they see him play. And then they want the next guy.”
Johnson fielded questions with ACC media for about an hour on a variety of topics. He said he is optimistic about the defense, which is now under the direction of new defensive coordinator Ted Roof after last year's midseason firing of Al Groh.
“I think the general attitude of the players and the staff is positive,” Johnson said. “I think there's a lot of energy. (Coaches) feel like they're more involved, that kind of thing, so we'll see. You've still got to play the games.”
Johnson said he expects safety Isaiah Johnson, returning from a knee injury suffered during bowl practice, will be ready when the team begins fall camp. Defensive tackle Shawn Green may be held out of preseason camp with a shoulder injury.
Among players Johnson touted were outside linebacker Brandon Watts — “I think Brandon could really be a breakout player,” he said — and safety Chris Milton, who shined on special teams last year as a freshman. He also mentioned that players have shared opinions with him that they believe that receiver DeAndre Smelter, who joined the team this summer after three years with the Tech baseball team and has impressed in seven-on-seven workouts, can contribute this season.
“I think Chris Milton is a really good football player,” Johnson said. “He got to play a little bit last year, and I think the more he plays, the more people are going to see that he's a talented guy. We're excited about him.”
Johnson, however, downplayed use of the shotgun, which the team spent time on in spring practice. After last season, coaches looked at video of NFL teams such as Washington and San Francisco to study how they ran option plays out of the shotgun.
“We're not going to drastically change what we do,” Johnson said. “It's been fairly successful, but you can always tweak things and try to make them better.”