ATLANTA — Vad Lee saved his coming out party for his first game in his home state of North Carolina last season.
Georgia Tech can’t wait to see how Lee will fare in his first start in his hometown.
Georgia Tech, off this week, opens its Atlantic Coast Conference schedule next week at Duke.
Lee, a Durham, N.C., native, remains close to coach David Cutcliffe and some Duke players, including quarterback Anthony Boone.
Lee stood on the Georgia Tech sideline at Duke two years ago when he was being redshirted.
“That was kind of bittersweet, being able to go but not being able to play,” he said.
This one will be different. This time Lee, who led Georgia Tech to a 70-0 win over Elon last week, is coming home as a starter.
“It’s a great feeling to just know that I’m going to go home this time and play,” he said.
He said this is more than just another game.
“A win would mean everything, not just for me but for the team,” Lee said. “It’s for the Coastal Division and one step closer to our goal of winning the ACC championship.”
Lee, named The Associated Press North Carolina high school player of the year in 2010, was recruited by both Duke and North Carolina. His friendship with Cutcliffe survived his in-state loyalties to North Carolina and his decision to sign with Georgia Tech.
Lee said Cutcliffe already directed a good-natured jab his way by telling one of Lee’s friends “’We’re coming after Vad Lee this year.’”
Lee said Cutcliffe delivered the promise “in a laughing manner.”
“That was just funny,” Lee said. “My friend texted me, so we just laughed.”
Lee played behind 2012 senior Tevin Washington most of last season. He earned a larger share of the playing time after running for 112 yards and two touchdowns and passing for a score in a record-setting 68-50 win at North Carolina.
Lee’s performance at North Carolina gives Georgia Tech quarterbacks coach Bryan Cook confidence he’ll be motivated – but not distracted – at Duke.
“I know he’ll be excited to play, so that makes me excited,” Cook said. “I don’t think he’ll be at the point where he’ll be too excited and try to make too much out of it. If you look at history, he played OK at Chapel Hill last year.
“He’ll be ready to go.”
Cook said Lee, a sophomore, has adjusted to his new leadership role.
“He carries himself like a starting quarterback right now,” Cook said. “He prepares, he watches extra film. From a leadership standpoint, he doesn’t feel like he’s stepping on anybody’s toes if he’s making the kind of statements to the group to motivate. I think probably from a confidence standpoint we see the biggest difference.”
Lee led the spread-option offense to an easy win over Elon last week. He completed 7 of 11 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 49 yards and a touchdown.
Justin Thomas played behind Lee and added a 44-yard touchdown run.
Coach Paul Johnson said Lee and Thomas can improve in the way they carry out fakes, but there was little to criticize in the lopsided win.
“As far as the base fundamentals of the thing, they played OK,” Johnson said. “They played pretty good.”
Lee said he already has ticket requests from “more than 40” friends and family members for next week’s game.
“It’s got to be a big game for him,” Thomas said. “That’s where he’s from. It’s going to be his hometown and I’m sure he’s thinking a lot about it and he’ll bring his A game for it.”