ATLANTA — Paul Johnson said Wednesday it is “likely” freshman quarterback Jaybo Shaw will make his first start for Georgia Tech against Duke on Saturday.
Johnson’s comment came after Josh Nesbitt was held out again with a sore hamstring in Wednesday’s practice.
Nesbitt, a sophomore, started the first four games but strained his right hamstring on the Yellow Jackets’ opening drive against Mississippi State on Sept. 20.
Johnson, the first-year coach, said it is still possible Nesbitt will play against Duke.
Shaw took over for Nesbitt on the opening drive of the 38-7 win over Mississippi State. He threw a touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas and had a 3-yard touchdown run.
“I think after having almost a full game’s experience, having that behind me will help me a lot,” Shaw said. “Of course I’ll wake up on Saturday morning and my nerves will be flying all over the place again.”
The last true freshman to start at quarterback for Georgia Tech was Reggie Ball in 2003.
With Shaw playing most of the way, Tech enjoyed what Johnson said was its most impressive offensive game of the season against Mississippi State.
The Yellow Jackets had a season-high 500 total yards, including 438 yards rushing, in their first turnover-free game of the season. The rushing yards were the fifth-highest total in school history.
There’s an obvious reason Georgia Tech has enjoyed a fast start in Johnson’s first season.
Johnson’s Yellow Jackets have enjoyed fast starts in their games.
Georgia Tech has outscored opponents 38-3 in the first quarter this season. The Yellow Jackets have scored six first-quarter touchdowns while allowing only one field goal.
It’s a trend senior offensive tackle Andrew Gardner says he hopes Georgia Tech can continue against Duke in Saturday’s matchup of Atlantic Coast Conference teams with 3-1 overall records.
Gardner says Johnson’s spread option offense gives Georgia Tech an advantage that is especially important in the first quarter.
“I think it’s kind of difficult for other teams,” Gardner said. “They practice for our offense all week, but that first drive, that’s the first time they’ve seen it. If we come out on that first drive and do well, they don’t really have time to adjust before we can put some points on the board.”
Gardner says opposing defenses aren’t ready for the offense after a week of practicing against a scout-team offense that can’t really imitate the Tech attack.
“We come out here and practice it all the time, over and over and over again, so we’re pretty much ready for anything new they’re going to give us, and all they’ve had is a scout team look,” Gardner said. “I think that’s tough for any team, especially early in the game.”
Georgia Tech led 3-0 after the first quarter of its 20-17 loss at Virginia Tech on Sept. 13 and led 14-0 after the opening quarter of wins over Jacksonville State and Mississippi State.
The only game in which Georgia Tech allowed any points in the first quarter was in its 19-16 win at Boston College on Sept. 6. The Yellow Jackets led 7-3 after the first quarter.
“We’re just coming out ready to play,” Shaw said. “We’ve just got to continue with that and work on finishing a little better. I think we start off playing very hard. We play with a purpose like we’re trying to prove a point, and I think we need to continue doing that.”
Georgia Tech is coming off a bye week, and Johnson is 20-8 the last seven years when he has had more than a week to prepare for an opponent. ... Georgia Tech has won the last four games of the series against Duke and hasn’t lost a home game to the Blue Devils since 1994. The Yellow Jackets took a 41-24 win at Duke last season.