Georgia Tech will have to find an A-back rotation that has one returnee (Broderick Snoddy, whom coach Paul Johnson said at the ACC Kickoff is “full go”), a walk-on (Isiah Willis), two redshirt freshmen (Clinton Lynch and Qua Searcy, who switched to A-back in the spring) and three incoming freshmen (Nate Cottrell, Omahri Jarrett and TaQuon Marshall).
To put that into context, that group has played a combined 47 games with three starts (Snoddy is responsible for 35 of the games and all three starts). Going into last season, A-backs B.J. Bostic, Synjyn Days (who subsequently moved to B-back), Deon Hill, Charles Perkins and Tony Zenon had played a combined 168 games with 17 starts.
Still, Johnson did not express much concern about the position group. Quite the opposite, he said he was more concerned about wide receiver and the defense than the A-backs.
“That’ll take care of itself,” he said. “I’m not too worried about that.”
Coming out of the spring, Johnson said he liked what he saw from Lynch and Searcy; he said he thought that the latter “can be a really good player.” Athletically speaking, “I think we’ll be as good or better than we were a year ago,” Johnson said. “Just lose a little experience.”
It’s understating the loss of Hill, Perkins, Bostic, Zenon and Dennis Andews (dismissed) a little bit. Regardless, Johnson is ready to be flexible with the position. While he has used the A-backs to shuttle in plays, he said that if he doesn’t have enough for a trustworthy rotation, he could send in plays with wide receivers or B-backs if necessary, or just signal in plays from the sidelines. (Johnson has said previously that he sends in plays with messengers after his own players at Navy were able to decode the opponent’s signals. He figured if they could pick up the signs, other teams could probably pick up his.)
Picking spots for different A-backs is another option.
“Certain guys are good at certain things,” Johnson said. “We may have a freshman or two that we put in to run the quick toss or the counter. We’ll try to ask them to do stuff that they do well. And some guys do things better than others. Some guys are better blockers than others. Without getting into huge tendencies, you try to utilize your people.”
Who can step forward? In the “New in ’15” series (which will be resumed shortly), Omahri Jarrett said he was told by A-backs coach Lamar Owens that playing time will be given to “whoever can block the best.” Particularly given the big-play threat that Snoddy will bring, it makes some sense. There’s logic to it for another reason supplied by former A-back Roddy Jones.
Tech might run 70 or 75 plays in a game. An A-back might get seven or eight touches.
“What are you going to do the rest of those plays?” Jones asked. “I’d say 50 plays a game, you’re going to have to affect the game somehow knowing you’re not going to get the ball. You’ve got to be good at it and take pride in it as a position.”
Given his experience, and his spot atop the depth chart, Willis seems a likely candidate for playing time. The same would go with Lynch, who has been at A-back since arriving last summer. Searcy has the advantage of having played defense in high school, which is something former A-back Robbie Godhigh said helped him. At the end of Godhigh's standout career, I asked him about blocking, and he said that in high school, he didn’t block much and that he actually hated it.
“Playing defense in high school, that’s kind of how I tackled,” Godhigh said. “I didn’t really wrap up or anything. I just dove at people’s legs and they went down, so I kind of just used that when I got here and it kind of worked out for me.”
Position coach Lamar Owens will have a new group of players to instill the sort of team-first mindset that enabled A-backs like Hill, Godhigh, Jones and others to flourish.
"Lamar does a great job of instilling that and creating the team atmosphere (that) it's just as exciting when you throw a block for a touchdown as when you score the touchdown," Jones said.