Sunday, July 3, 2022

Taisun Phommachanh provides Georgia Tech with intriguing QB battle ahead of crucial season for Geoff Collins

The quarterback competition at Georgia Tech received some intrigue on Monday night, when former Clemson quarterback Taisun Phommachanh announced his commitment to the Yellow Jackets as a transfer. A former four-star prospect from the class of 2019, Phommachanh appeared in 12 games during three seasons with the Tigers while serving as a backup to Trevor Lawrence and D.J. Uiagalelei.

Phommachanh could provide a spark to a Georgia Tech program in search of a jolt under fourth-year coach Geoff Collins. He completed 22 of 48 passes for 204 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions during his career at Clemson and also rushed 30 times for 150 yards. The Connecticut native should have at least two seasons of eligibility remaining with the Yellow Jackets. 

While his career statistics are underwhelming, Phommachanh faced hurdles to productivity at Clemson due to the talent in the quarterback room and also because of an Achilles injury he suffered in the 2021 spring game. At Georgia Tech, he will still face stiff competition to win the starting job but at a time when the position is unsettled.

Redshirt sophomore Jeff Sims is the incumbent quarterback at Georgia Tech after flashing a mix of talent and inconsistency in two seasons. In 2021, Sims split reps with Jordan Yates, who has since transferred to Sam Houston. In addition to Sims, Phommachanh will also have to compete with redshirt sophomore Zach Gibson, an Akron transfer from the Atlanta area who showed promise with the Zips last season while throwing 10 touchdowns and no interceptions.

Phommachanh has the least playing experience among the trio, but he was the No. 4-ranked dual-threat quarterback in his recruiting class, according to the 247Sports Composite. If he were to win the starting job during preseason practice, his first start would come against his old team as Georgia Tech is scheduled to begin the season against Clemson on Sept. 5.

Georgia Tech looking for answers

Georgia Tech is 9-25 so far under Collins, who was tasked with transitioning the program away from the option-based offense it ran for 11 seasons under former coach Paul Johnson. Though progress was expected to be slow as Collins transitioned the roster to fit a more standard offensive scheme, the 2021 season will be big for the former Temple coach.

He brought in former Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chip Long and landed a former 1,000-yard rusher in Dylan McDuffie to help mitigate the loss of star running back Jahmyr Gibbs to Alabama. But with a brutal nonconference schedule that includes Georgia, Ole Miss and UCF, progress toward bowl eligibility will be a grind. By bringing in Phommachanh, Collins is leaving no stone unturned in his search for quarterback productivity.

Phommachanh’s rehab

Around this time last year, Clemson’s quarterback depth became a topic of offseason speculation after Phommachanh suffered an Achilles tear. After such a serious injury, it seemed unlikely that Phommachanh would be able to challenge Uiagalelei for the starting job, or even be available as a backup in 2021. But Phommachanh made a quick recovery that Clemson coach Dabo Swinney described as “one of those miracles.”

Ultimately, Phommachanh was ready for the start of the season and wound up playing some non-garbage snaps amid Uiagalelei’s struggles. Now that the injury is more than a year behind him, Phommachanh could be better equipped to withstand the rigors of Power Five football. If nothing else, he will get a fresh start with the Yellow Jackets, who suddenly have one of the country’s more intriguing quarterback battles to watch.

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