Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee is leaving the Yellow Jackets after his first year as a starter, opting to transfer with two years of eligibility left. (Reuters)
He arrived at Georgia Tech in 2011 with a reputation almost approaching legend. As sometimes happens in the hype-filled world of college football, and recruiting in particular, however, quarterback Vad Lee will transfer from Tech without having approached the mammoth expectations.
Following his first season as a starter, Lee, a sophomore, will leave the program, however his destination is unclear. Tech completed its season Monday in a 25-17 loss to Ole Miss at the Music City Bowl.
“Making the decision to leave Georgia Tech was difficult for me,” Lee said. “I am very close — and will continue to be close — with my teammates. I will also miss the overwhelming support I received the last three years from Yellow Jacket nation.
“I greatly appreciate the opportunity Coach (Paul) Johnson gave me, as well the chance to work with coaches like Brian Bohannon and Bryan Cook. Thanks as well to (recruiting coordinator) Andy McCollum, who helped recruit me to Tech.”
Thought to be an ideal fit for Johnson’s spread-option offense with his dual-threat combination, Lee struggled this season at the helm of the offense. He had difficulty making the right reads on option plays, often playing with hesitation. He averaged 2.8 yards per carry this season, after averaging 5.7 yards per carry last season as backup to Tevin Washington.
“Vad is a young man with high character and I appreciate all the work that he put into our program and to Georgia Tech during his three years here,” Johnson said. “This is a decision made by Vad and his family, and while you don’t like losing talented players, I wish nothing but the best for Vad in the future.”
At times, Lee showed his promise, throwing four touchdown passes and running for another in a 38-14 win over Duke in September in Durham, N.C., in a return to his hometown. In perhaps his best game of the season, he threw for two touchdown passes and ran for two more against Georgia in Tech’s 41-34 double-overtime loss in November.
He was expected to be the best passer that Johnson had coached at Tech, but in part because of protection problems and inexperienced receivers, he completed 45.6 percent of his passes, more than 10 points lower than Washington’s rate in 2012.
Asked after the bowl game to summarize his first season as a starter, Lee needed four words: “Rough. It was rough.”
There was little in Johnson’s public support of Lee or in Lee’s own demeanor to suggest such a drastic move lurked. Johnson summarized Lee’s play in the bowl as “some good, some bad,” but pointed out his successful plays. Following Tech’s loss to Georgia, Lee was nearly in tears, upset that the Yellow Jackets couldn’t send out the team’s seniors with a win over the rival Bulldogs.
Lee likely will transfer to an FCS school, perhaps one closer to his beloved home state, where he would have immediate eligibility. Were he to transfer to an FBS school, he would have to sit out one season and have one to play.
“My decision was also difficult because I know first-hand the talent coming back next season,” he said. “I just felt that it is a good time for me to get a fresh start for my final two years of college.”
Entering spring practice, backup Justin Thomas likely will ascend to the first string. He’ll be challenged by backup Tim Byerly, Ty Griffin (redshirted this season) and Matthew Jordan (an expected early-enrollee freshman).