Lee's departure leaves Tech with QB hole

ATLANTA — Georgia Tech will have to break in a new quarterback again next season and this one doesn’t come nearly as touted as Vlad Lee.

Lee is transferring, leaving Justin Thomas as the leading candidate to take over amid heightened concern about the long-term viability of coach Paul Johnson’s spread-option offense.

“The triple-option was never really my thing,” Lee told ESPN’s Joe Schad.

Lee, who started every Tech game as a red-shirt sophomore, had big games against Duke and rival Georgia. But he struggled in several others, including the 25-17 loss to Ole Miss in the Music City Bowl as the Yellow Jackets finished 7-6.

The North Carolina native will have two years of eligibility remaining if he transfers to a Football Championship Subdivision school, but just one if he doesn’t take a step back in competition.

“I’ve got some Division I schools that are interested and a lot of FCS schools,” Lee said.

Lee was Tech’s third leading rusher with 513 yards, but completed only 45.6 percent of his 180 passes for 1,561 yards. He had 11 touchdown passes to 10 interceptions and ran for eight scores.

Thomas threw just four passes with one completion for three yards backing up Lee as a red-shirt freshman this season. The other returning quarterback is sophomore Tim Byerly.

“Making the decision to leave Georgia Tech was difficult for me,” Lee said in a statement released by Tech. “… I just felt that it is a good time for me to get a fresh start for my final two years of college.”

Lee was touted as the best passer recruited by Johnson and was also considered a running threat. But he was inconsistent directing the triple-option, often looking uncomfortable.

“… I appreciate all the work that he put into our program and to Georgia Tech during his three years here,” Johnson said in a statement. “This is a decision made by Vad and his family, and while you don’t like losing talented players, I wish nothing but the best for Vad in the future.”

Johnson also responded Friday to a comment on Twitter from CBS Sports’ Bruce Feldman that the coach was unhappy at Tech and hoped to have his contract bought out.

“The rumors on social media are not true,” Johnson said. “I plan on being the head coach at Georgia Tech into the future. I look forward to finishing up recruiting and getting ready for the 2014 season.”

Tech is 1-5 against Georgia and 1-5 in bowl games under Johnson. The Yellow Jackets were 19-7 in Johnson’s first two seasons, but are 28-25 since.