There is significant statistical precedent that suggests college QB’s who are low on the depth chart at a high-major program would benefit greatly from leaving to go to a Division 1-AA school or mid-major programs. For varying reasons, plenty of talented quarterbacks find themselves in ill-fitting situations at their current schools and need to sail for greener pastures.
Joe Flacco was originally at Pittsburgh, but his path to the NFL required a stop at Delaware before he was able to become a first-round draft pick because he couldn’t get past that pesky Tyler Palko on the depth chart.
Ryan Perrilloux had an amazing prep career, but the influences of Baton Rogue were too much for him and his transfer to Jacksonville State became a necessity. He helped Jacksonville State become a power in the Ohio Vally conference while posting some of the best stats in the nation at the FCS level.
Colt Brennan’s legal issues at Colorado resulted in stints at a junior college and eventually Hawaii. He had a storied career there and ended up convincing voters to let his team play Georgia in the Sugar Bowl (where they were summarily destroyed).
Josh McCown was a hot mess during his career at SMU (34 interceptions over three seasons), but at Sam Houston State he forged his way into the NFL draft conversation and hasn’t looked back.
Way back in the day, Bert Emanuel went from UCLA to Rice to the NFL, and eventually led to a rule being named after the guy.
There are always cautionary tales like Mitch Mustain, Jeremy Masoli, Sam Keller, and of course Danny O’Brien, too. Sometimes the grass is not always greener on the other side, and the enemy you know is better than the one you don’t. It happens all the time and has happened increasingly so since quarterbacks are now far more impatient in their desire to start. The graduate transfer rule only adds to the booming transfer market. And if you jump down a level, you’re eligible to play right away.
Such is the case with Vad Lee, Georgia Tech’s former triple-option quarterback under Paul Johnson. Maryland fans should be quite familiar with him; Lee somehow managed to beat the Terps 33-13 despite being outdueled by a linebacker (Shawn Petty) at quarterback and throwing for 26 yards. You’d be forgiven if your initial reaction to someone telling you Lee considers himself a more traditional quarterback was outright laughter. In his prior offense, there was little to no indication that Lee would be capable of doing exactly that.
Lee completed 45.6% of his passes last year and topped the 200 yard mark one time (against Georgia) during his time at Georgia Tech. Even as a rushing threat, his 2.8 yards per carry ranked him out of the top 25 rushers in the ACC with more than 100 carries. Lee definitely had success against some of his less skilled opponents (189 yards passing vs Elon; 101 yards rushing vs Presbyterian), but those teams are not Maryland and this is not his old offense.
Why, if Lee wanted to become a pocket passer, would he go to the historically ground-oriented Yellow Jackets, is anyone’s guess. Lee had a decent arm coming out of high school and showed it off a little during his time at Georgia Tech, but he was brought in as an athlete (perhaps with the hope that he could be changed to another position). James Madison is asking him to become a full-time drop back quarterback, which is asking a whole lot.
The Maryland Lee faced back in 2012 pales in comparison to the one he’ll face in College Park this Saturday. The Terps don’t even have the linebacker who played QB against Lee on the roster anymore, and their defensive front is versatile and well-versed in defensive coordinator Brian Stewart’s schemes. Quinton Jefferson and Andre Monroe will provide plenty of pressure, while an opportunistic secondary of Sean Davis and Will Likely will be major problems for any quarterback with accuracy issues.
Vad Lee will have a hard time replicating that 33-point performance against Maryland without a ton of help, and even though James Madison might be better than last year, their roster is a work in progress. Lee has tons of potential to shine in the CAA, but this is just one last ACC game for Vad Lee. Only this time, he gets his own offense with half the talent he had at Georgia Tech.