Tech's Vad Lee looking forward to visit from 'fellow' Tar Heels
As Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee approached the podium in the visiting team’s locker room following his team’s 38-14 win over Duke Saturday, he said he felt comfortable with the setup because he wants to be a preacher in the future.
In fact, the former Hillside High School standout has looked comfortable throughout his first two games as a college starter.
In the season opener, a 70-0 win against Elon, he led the Yellow Jackets to touchdowns on every drive he was under center. Then, in his first road start, Lee accounted for all five TDs at Wallace Wade Stadium, just four miles from his childhood home.
Next up is Saturday’s game in Atlanta against North Carolina (noon, ESPN), the team Lee rooted for growing up.
“I’m definitely looking forward to playing them again,” Lee said. “I know they’re looking forward to playing us again.”
Georgia Tech beat UNC 68-50 last year in the highest-scoring game in ACC history. Lee came off the bench and totaled 281 yards and three touchdowns running and passing.
Despite playing in a run-oriented triple-option offense, Lee has continued to beat teams through the air and on the ground this season. His four TD passes against Duke were the most for a Georgia Tech quarterback since coach Paul Johnson brought his scheme to Atlanta in 2008.
“Coach Johnson always harped on, ‘We need somebody to throw the ball,’” Lee said. “And I jumped on board and said ‘Yeah, I’ll throw it.’”
Georgia Tech is one of three teams nationally averaging more than 20 yards a completion.
“He throws the ball down the field very well,” UNC associate coach for defense Vic Koenning said. “You can be over the top and he can throw it back shoulder, and there’s not much you can do against that.”
Defending the unique triple-option offense is hard enough for most defenses, which usually only see it once a year, but Lee’s throwing ability makes it extra challenging.
“You get down to the red zone and those areas, and now you’re trying to stop the triple-option and the play-action passes off of it, and it’s tough,” UNC coach Larry Fedora said. “It’s very tough.”
Lee threw for 5,000 yards and ran for almost 2,000 at Hillside, where he was named 2010 AP state player of the year. His skill set also allowed Georgia Tech to unveil a “diamond” package against the Blue Devils, in which Lee lined up in the pistol with three running backs around him.
“It’s two different styles of offense, and they are able to do that because of Vad Lee,” Fedora said. “Vad is a very talented young man who can beat you with his legs or his arm.”
UNC’s defense has used last year’s debacle — it was the most points the team had ever allowed at Kenan Stadium — as a rallying cry going into Saturday’s meeting. Fedora said he’s confident the defense has a sound plan, and his players will be able to execute it. But Lee said he’s improved as well since last year’s game, mostly in his understanding of Johnson’s system.
“Last year I was just out there — I guess I was a good enough athlete to just go out there and play,” Lee said. “This year I don’t have to think too much, I kind of know exactly where to go. It’s slowing down to me.”
Still, there’s plenty of room for improvement. Lee fumbled and threw an interception against Duke last week, and sometimes made the wrong read in the run game.
“I think we left a lot of points on the field at Duke, and he would be the first to tell you that,” Johnson said. “He’s a talented guy… he’s going to make plays. We just hope it’s for (us).”