STATESBORO — Redshirt-freshman quarterback Justin Tomlin had a career night as he led the Eagles to a victory over Maine on Saturday.
In his first collegiate start, Tomlin went 4 for 9 in the air and accumulated 132 rushing yards, whilst putting up a touchdown.
Redshirt-junior quarterback Shai Werts went down in the second quarter of last week’s blowout loss to LSU and Tomlin came in for the relief. He was held to five rushing yards and 24 passing yards in his eight attempts by the Tiger defense. Head Coach Chad Lunsford predicted that the Decatur native would start, since Werts did not practice this week but the final decision was made shortly before kick-off.
“We didn’t really know Shai’s condition,” Tomlin said. “It was a game-time decision so I think yesterday was when I found out I was gonna start.”
Lunsford wanted to see how Shai [Werts] looked in warmups before officially naming Tomlin a starter. Werts did not dress out but participated in the pregame coin toss as a captain.
“Really, not knowing up until game time, that’s tough on a young man,” Lunsford said. “He was thrown into the game last week against LSU… I’m very proud of what he did. We saw some good things out of him… A lot of things that went wrong on offense, errant snaps and all that, you can’t put on Justin.”
Last week, multiple players on the team voiced their support for Tomlin after Werts’ injury. Senior cornerback Monquavion Brinson echoed those sentiments after the Saturday night victory.
“I knew Justin was ready,” Brinson said. “I call him a rookie in practice, trying to get in his head. But I knew he was ready. As he goes against me and Kindle every day, he knows the dos and don’ts. He goes against some of the best corners in our conference and one of the best defenses.”
Tomlin admitted he felt nervous at first, but found a rhythm after the first two three-and-outs. The Maine defense came out aggressive and did not allow any passing yards in the first quarter.
“When I got into the game, it started to slow down for me,” Tomlin said. “I started to get comfortable.”
Tomlin was one of three players who reached over 100 yards during the game, along with sophomore running backs Matt LaRoche and Logan Wright.
Out of high school, he received offers from ten other schools including Kennesaw State, East Tennessee State and The Citadel.
Last season, Tomlin was redshirted, but had a handful of snaps against Coastal Carolina at the end of the season.
“This year I feel way more prepared,” Tomlin said. “I’m deeper into the playbook, I know all the plays… Last year I really wasn’t all the way good with offense. But this year, I’m pretty up there.”
Though Tomlin ran a high powered offense against Maine, the starting quarterback job is up in the air for next week against Minnesota depending on the state of Werts’ shoulder.
“I’m feeling great,” he said. “We’ve got some things to work on but I feel like we’ll bounce back stronger next week.”
Amanda Arnold, The George-Anne Sports Editor, email@example.com