College athletes transfer all the time. It’s a daily, even rather innocuous occurrence, and many times it doesn’t even make the news. But when a starting quarterback like Vad Lee announces his intent to leave a program like Georgia Tech, it raises a multitude of questions about what is happening behind the scenes.
Yellow Jackets head coach Paul Johnson is not without his detractors, as is the case with most college football coaches (yes, even Nick Saban has doubters). But now the muffled murmurs of their objections to Johnson and his exclusionary offense may begin to find ears that, until yesterday, were deaf to their tune.
Vad Lee told ESPN’s Joe Schad, “The triple option was never really my thing.” This begs the question, did Vad Lee not know coming in the door at Tech that the “triple option” was Paul Johnson’s baby and that he’d have to learn (and successfully run) that offense?
Where was the breakdown in communication?
Did Johnson ever imply that things would be tailored to suit Lee’s style? Doubtful.
Did the talented Lee, who was one of the most notable recruits that Johnson ever signed, suddenly decide that his skills in both passing and running weren’t suited to being an option QB? Not likely.
No, this is more than likely a case of personality clash, combined with frustration, personal issues and perhaps even some academic considerations. Let’s face it…Georgia Tech isn’t exactly an academic breeze, even to student-athletes.
Johnson openly grumbled about Lee’s performance in his offense, even as late as Monday’s Music City Bowl loss to Ole Miss, where he chided Lee publicly about missing the first three reads of the game. Johnson has never been known as a warm-fuzzy guy, and he seemed even less inclined to pull out the group-hug therapy where Vad Lee was concerned.
So now what? One of the best athletes you ever managed to recruit to your school leaves after three seasons (one red shirted), with a preference for playing at a school like James Madison rather than on the big stage of a top FBS conference program. You, my friend, are a head coach with a problem.
The program? Damaged.
The head coach? Bashed.
And now, a recruiting job that was already a difficult task on its best day has become infinitely more so with one player’s inclination to being a big fish in a little pond rather than to deal with Paul Johnson’s offensive creation.
On the field, this will all probably mean very little to Tech in 2014. Justin Thomas is an able quarterback, and will probably be able to run the option better than Lee did. The Jackets will still effectively run the ball and pass about as often as Alabama loses. They’ll still be in the mix, if not at the top, of the ACC Coastal division next season, and will probably still find a way to lose to Georgia.
But off the field? Things just got a little more tense on the Flats, and a coach who might have been able to get away with “just winning” each year might now find himself on the verge of that dreaded “hot seat” conversation.