Former Texas A&M QB Haynes King claims the starting job at Georgia Tech

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ATLANTA (AP) — Former Texas A&M quarterback Haynes King has claimed the starting job at Georgia Tech.

Coach Brent Key announced Tuesday that King will start the Sept. 1 opener against Atlantic Coast Conference rival Louisville.

“We feel like he gives us the best chance in the first game to go out and play the game we want to play,” Key said.

King beat out redshirt freshman Zach Pyron for the No. 1 spot. Zach Gibson was also in the mix, but it basically became a two-man competition during preseason camp.

After hinting that he might wait as late as game time to announce a starter, Key felt comfortable enough with King to make the call more than a week before the opener at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“It's time to turn the page with that,” Key said, “and get the team focused and prepped moving forward.”

Key said he met individually with both King and Pyron on Monday to inform them of his decision.

“I talked with them at depth, kind of where they're at, where they stand, what they need to continue to work on,” the coach said. “Both quarterbacks had outstanding camps.”

King came to Georgia Tech as a graduate transfer in January after the last two seasons as Texas A&M's starter.

He played only two games in 2021 before going down with a season-ending broken leg. A year ago, King lost the starting job after an upset loss to Appalachian State, though he did wind up playing in six games — five of them losses.

King completed 55.6% of his passes for 1,220 yards, with seven touchdowns and six interceptions in a hugely disappointing season for the Aggies. They started out ranked in the top 10, but finished 5-7.

Now, he's getting a fresh start at Georgia Tech, which has endured four straight losing seasons, including a 5-7 mark last season.

Picking a starter was a big moment for Key, who is beginning his first full season leading the program after guiding the Yellow Jackets to a 4-4 mark as the interim coach in 2022.

“It's an evaluation that started Jan. 6, when all the guys got back and had the first workout together,” Key said. "This has been an eight-month evaluation of everything, everything that goes into being the starting quarterback."

Key said he's pleased with his QB depth, noting that Pyron and Gibson started games for the Yellow Jackets last year after starter Jeff Sims went down with an injury.

Sims has since transferred to Nebraska.

“To have three quarterbacks that have started college football games on your team is a super-positive to have," Key said. “There's going to be points in time this year where those quarterbacks will all play."

But King the clear-cut starter for now.

“I’m not putting him on the short leash," Key said. “I do not want the starting quarterback to go out there and feel like if makes one mistake, he’ll get yanked.”

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AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll