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Former local prep stars start task of earning playing time at Tech
Nick Claytor, a graduate of Gainesville High, runs through blocking drills Wednesday in Atlanta - photo by SARA GUEVARA

ATLANTA — Jaybo Shaw is bound to make Georgia Tech football coach Paul Johnson’s decision a difficult one when it comes to naming a starting quarterback for the 2008 season.

Johnson made it clear he would like for his sophomore quarterback Josh Nesbitt to come into camp and earn the job, but he also said that Shaw is in good favor after the first day.

"You would like for Josh to come in here and take the job … he’s got the physical ability to run the offense well," Johnson said. "But Jaybo Shaw did some good things out there today. … I noticed him."

Shaw just tried to take his first day as a Yellow Jacket quarterback in stride. He said the biggest adjustment was finally putting on a helmet after spending his first two months on Georgia Tech’s campus focused on 7-on-7 work and spending time in the weight room.

The Times’ 2006 All-Area Football Player of the Year isn’t coming into Georgia Tech’s camp trying to predict whether he will be a starter his first year on campus or get redshirted.

Shaw says he trusts Johnson to put him in the best position in the team’s option-based offense.

"I really haven’t heard much (about playing status) since it’s the first day," Shaw said. "If coach Johnson wants to redshirt me, or not, is his decision.

"I totally trust coach Johnson to make that decision, because he’s a winner."

Shaw, who finished his high school career with 9,340 passing yards and 127 touchdowns, isn’t the only local athlete getting ready for this season with the Yellow Jackets. Gainesville High grad and redshirt freshman Nick Claytor knows what it’s like to go through the grind of summer college football practice.

He understands the transition of going from high school to Georgia Tech.

Claytor said he isn’t experiencing any apprehension of making a good impression. He feels good about the direction of the new offense Johnson has implemented.

Of course, Claytor is quick to remind Shaw of their high school rivalry each and every chance he gets.

"I mess with Jaybo all the time," Claytor said. "Every time he comes back from throwing a touchdown out there, I always say, ‘Why did you have to mess up my senior year.’

"But Jaybo is doing a great job and he’s a good guy … he knows he needs the O-line to survive."

Dawson County brothers Logan, Levi and Lance Walls are also battling for playing time at various positions this season.

For Shaw, his first day of college football practice isn’t just an individual battle – it’s a family affair.

He had his father Lee Shaw, Flowery Branch’s football coach, and younger brother Connor, a rising junior and starting quarterback at Flowery Branch, on hand to watch practice.

The Falcons’ coach said it is nice to be able to watch his son play as a college athlete and simply get to be a dad.

He isn’t worried about his son adjusting to the Yellow Jackets style of play since he started working the steps of the option offense as young as age 5.

According to coach Shaw, Jaybo and Nesbitt are the two front runners to start behind center against Jacksonville State on Aug. 28 at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

"I think Jaybo is very coachable," his father said. "He’ll be able to compete this season.

"As a parent I’m relaxed and just focused on letting him make his own memories as a player."

Shaw’s younger brother Connor was excited about seeing his big brother take the first steps in his college career. He’s the next in line to go through the college football recruiting process after picking up his first official offer from the Yellow Jackets last week.

"This is overwhelming," Connor said. "I know Jaybo is out there just having a blast right now … he’s been talking about finally getting to start practice all summer."

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