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Shaw poised to hit the field

POSTED: August 30, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Sara Guevara | The Times/

Georgia Tech freshman quarterback Jaybo Shaw, a Flowery Branch High graduate, will see playing time in the Yellow Jackets' season opener against Jacksonville State Thursday night in Atlanta.

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ATLANTA — It should be no surprise that Jaybo Shaw has been a quick study in Paul Johnson's option offense.

Shaw has been studying the offense since he was 5 years old.

Shaw was coached by his father, Lee Shaw, at Flowery Branch High School. Lee Shaw, who previously coached at Rabun County, White County and Stephens County in north Georgia, says his son is "football smart."

"When he was 5 and 6 he was mimicking our quarterback and taking those option steps," said Lee Shaw. "I'd call out a play and he'd make the steps. He's always been right in it, right by my side at practice."

When Johnson was still the coach at Navy, he thought Jaybo Shaw was a good match for his offense and tried to sign him.

"I loved the option because I've been in it and know that I can do it, but I just didn't want to do the military thing," Shaw said.

So Shaw instead gave a verbal commitment to Middle Tennessee State.

Then came news from Georgia Tech that made Shaw quickly change that commitment.

"Word got out that Coach Johnson may be getting the job here," Shaw said after a Georgia Tech practice this week. "As soon as that happened I decommitted from Middle Tennessee."

Johnson paid the Shaws an in-home visit, and Jaybo Shaw says he committed to Georgia Tech the next day.

Shaw moved quickly past more experienced quarterbacks to win the backup job behind starter Josh Nesbitt for Thursday night's opener against Jacksonville State.

"I'm very thankful," Shaw said. "People may question that a true freshman comes in here and gets a few snaps on Thursday night, but I just want to try to take advantage of every opportunity and show what I can do."

There's another young Shaw running the Flowery Branch High School offense this year.

Connor Shaw, almost 2 inches taller than the 6-foot, 190-pound Jaybo, is a junior at Flowery Branch and already has been offered a scholarship by Georgia Tech, according to Lee Shaw, who says Georgia, Auburn, South Carolina, Clemson and other schools also are interested.

"The bigger schools probably are hitting on Connor earlier," said Lee Shaw. "Jaybo opened a lot of doors for people here at Flowery Branch."

Lee Shaw switched offenses after Jaybo's sophomore season to a shotgun attack that also included option schemes.

"He got us in so many correct plays," said Lee Shaw of Jaybo. "His senior year he probably checked off 85 percent of the time."

Jaybo Shaw said he still consults with his dad after every practice.

"He asks every day how was practice and how are classes coming," Shaw said. "He tries to come out here when he can and watch practice, but of course he's got a team to coach. My family will be here Thursday night, and I'm very grateful for that."

Johnson said he expects to play Shaw one or two series.

"I think he's good enough to help us win the game, so we're going to put him in there and see what he does under fire," Johnson said.

Shaw didn't enroll at Georgia Tech for spring semester and couldn't participate in spring practice, but still he says he showed up every day to watch and learn as he prepared to switch back to the option.

"It did take some time to get back used to taking the snap and getting the reads," he said.

The freshman didn't need long to learn Johnson's version of the offense he's studied most of his life.

"I knew he'd compete," said Lee Shaw. "He's football smart as well. He understands structures of defenses. I knew once he got to the next level, he would grow more. There was a lot of room for improvement. That's a fantastic coaching staff and I knew they would take him on."

Shaw said he may have an advantage over returning quarterbacks, including senior Calvin Booker, who had to forget the offense they ran last year under former coach Chan Gailey.

"I really think it was great to come in with a new coach," Shaw said. "I'd rather do that instead of having to go through a coaching change, because I think that's really tough.

"For me, this has been a dream come true."


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