Is Justin Thomas a candidate for ACC Player of the Year?


The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets are sitting atop the ACC Coastal division with a spotless 5-0 record, and there is a great deal of optimism in Atlanta. Paul Johnson’s offense was utterly dominant as the Jackets disposed of the Miami Hurricanes under the lights on Saturday night, and more than at any time in the last handful of seasons, the fan base appears to be comfortable with both the scheme and the execution of the group.

At the center of the positive thought is quarterback Justin Thomas, who has been lights-out in his play through the first quintet of games, and as a result, certain accolades are beginning to follow the 5-foot-11 sophomore from Prattville, Alabama. In an off-line conversation between friends on Sunday, the topic of Thomas as the “front-runner” for the ACC Player of the Year honor was brought to the forefront, and even when the thought initially was raised as somewhat of an overstatement, it certainly is not as crazy as it may seem.

Yes, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston still plays in the ACC, and of course, the Seminoles are currently ranked as the top team in the country based on their status as defending national champions in accordance with an undefeated record. However, there is no single player, with Winston included, who has had a better statistical performance this season in the ACC.

Clemson QB Deshaun Watson actually leads the ACC (and the country) with a 91.6 total QBR on the season, but Watson has only been a full-time player for the last three games. Behind him, Thomas comes in with the 2nd-best mark in the conference (85.3), while Winston arrives with a 78.7 mark that actually places him outside the top ten in America. Clearly, one category does not make the overall profile for any quarterback, but Thomas has been highly proficient on the ground while simultaneously keeping the Jackets afloat in the passing game.

The 185-pound Thomas has managed to deftly avoid the “big hits” that an option quarterback usually takes, and his efficiency in pitching the ball at the right moment has been a welcomed sight. In total, Thomas has rushed for 470 yards on 78 carries (6.0 yards per attempt) and he has produced 3 touchdowns on the ground. The passing game will never be the strength of any Paul Johnson-led offense, which would explain a 50% completion rate for Thomas, but he has managed to avoid mistakes (1 interception), and the signal-caller has amassed 663 yards passing and 7 touchdowns.

In an attempt to fight the stereotype of “homerism”, Justin Thomas probably won’t win the ACC Player of the Year award. However, he has been extremely productive this season, and if he can simply maintain this level of play, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets will be in great shape moving forward, even with the questionable defensive tendencies of this year’s group.

It has been extremely fun to watch Justin Thomas operate the option this season, and we can only hope that he can live up to the building levels of hype.