A Preview of the A Backs and B Backs for the 2009 Season

Let me keep it simple and just say the Jackets are loaded in the backfield this year.  They return the entire starting backfield of both A-Backs and the B-Back.  For those who are still confused with the terminology utilized by the staff under Paul Johnson, let me provide a brief explanation.  The B-Back lines up on most plays four yards directly behind the quarterback who operates under center.  No shotgun in the triple option.  The B-Back is much like a fullback in terminology, but vastly different in what he is required to do in this offense.  He is the first option read by the quarterback and is the epitome of a “north and south” runner when he is given the football in the “mesh” as it is referred to under this system.  Just think of the old “belly play” utilized by the wishbone teams in the late 60’s and 70’s.

Our returning B-Back, Junior Jonathan Dwyer (6′ 228 lbs.), is a freight train with speed.  Not only was he the ACC Offensive Player of the year in 2008, but it is scary to think that he is still learning to play this position.  What is truly remarkable about Dwyer is that once he is past the line of scrimmage, nobody catches him from behind.  How fast is Dwyer?  As Paul Johnson said, “nobody walked him down all of last year.”  I’m certain he has a very impressive 40 yard time, but all you need to know is that he is a powerful back with great speed. 

That Thursday night game last year against Miami with all of the speed the Canes have in their secondary, nobody came to close to touching him on his long touchdown run.  He likes the nickname, “D-Train”, which is just fine with me, even though I thought he ran more like a Mack Truck in the UGA game last year.  Kind of ironic given that the Mack Truck logo is a bulldog.  He is also quite nifty if you remember the quick touchdown run he made right after we recovered the fumbled kickoff by the UGA returner.  I can still see that safety running right by “D-Train” after he “switched tracks” and went in untouched for the score.

With the talented group of backs returning to the fold in this system, Paul Johnson will be shifting his personnel much like a chess master moving various pieces around the board strategizing not only the next move, but several moves ahead.  Expect to see Dwyer lining up on several plays at A-Back this year too. 

An A-Back is much like a halfback/wingback and they (there are two on each play) line up in the backfield offset about two yards behind the offensive tackles.  Very similar to the position played by the 1971 Heisman Trophy winner from Nebraska, Johnny Rodgers.  The returning A-Backs are Redshirt Junior Lucas Cox (6′ 238 lbs.) and Redshirt Sophomore Roddy Jones (5’9″ 194 lbs.)  All you need to say about Roddy Jones is 13 carries-214 yards and two touchdowns!  I could discuss the exploits of all three of these players further, but let’s just say; “you ain’t seen nothin yet.”  Two more A-Backs who both earned their letters last year as true freshman are Sophomores Embry Peeples (5′ 10″ 175 lbs.) and Marcus Wright (5’8″ 175 lbs.).  A couple of speed merchants who are ready to step in and play as needed much like they did last year.  For those who remember the UGA game last year, Marcus Wright was also involved in that fumble recovery on the kickoff during the infamous 26 point third quarter, just before Dwyer’s second touchdown run up the middle.  This spring he was a terror with his blocking leading on those option plays around the corner.

Lucas Cox can, and did play, quite a bit at both the A-Back and B-Back position last year.  Remember seeing him running up the middle on those Canes last year?  How about those devastating blocks he was making in the secondary against the Dawgs in last year’s version of good old fashioned hate.  Backing up both Dwyer and Cox at the B-Back position will be Redshirt Freshman Richard Watson (6’1′ 225 lbs.).  This kid is a real bruiser.  Given that Dwyer is referred to as the “D-Train” and in keeping with the locomotive nicknames, how about the “Wabash Express” for Watson.  Looking forward to seeing him lining up behind the quarterback next year.  Another B-Back we will be seeing is Redshirt Sophomore Preston Lyons (6′ 220 lbs.) who transferred in from Colgate last year after he saw Paul Johnson take the helm on the flats.  He is a local kid who played at Marist, and had a very good spring with several long runs up the middle.

Now for the real intriguing chess piece: Junior Anthony Allen (6′ 228 lbs.)  Is he going to be an A-Back or a B-Back?  Probably will be doing a little of each.  Now I’m not certain, but for you trivia buffs out there, I think Anthony Allen is the only player in NCAA history to hold a rushing record at a Division I school (can’t get used to this FBS stuff), while still playing at another D-I school.  Allen transferred in from Louisville after his sophomore year and still holds the school record for rushing in a single game with 275 yards against Middle Tennessee State.  Apparently, he didn’t fit the mold for the type of “speedy” back they wanted in the “spread” offense that was brought in by Steve Kragthorpe after Bobby Petrino went to coach the NFL Atlanta Falcons. 

Makes you laugh even more when you consider all the experts said that, “Paul Johnson won’t be able to recruit any running backs for his triple option offense.”  After listening to all of these recruiting experts predicting “doom and gloom” for Tech after Johnson was hired, especially after a couple recruits de-committed, and a few roster players transferred out, apparently nobody bothered to report that the leading rusher at Louisville transferred in to Georgia Tech.  Now the secret is out.  Don’t tell anyone, maybe they won’t notice.

Anthony Allen was playing with Dwyer in the backfield quite often this spring.  He adds another dimension to the offense, and more importantly, allows for Dwyer to stay fresh for an entire game without missing a beat.  He also can catch the ball very well downfield.  Thanks Louisville!  Maybe Allen can even add to the trivia lore of the NCAA this year by holding the single game rushing record simultaneously at Two Division I schools.  I’m sure D-Train and Roddy will have something to say about that happening.  

The new freshman additions to the team will be B-Back Daniel Drummond (6’3″ 252 lbs.), and A-Back Orwin Smith (6’1″ 195 lbs.)  Hopefully both will be able to put on the redshirt and learn this system without giving up a year of eligibility prematurely.  Drummond has exceptional speed for his size, and is also the Georgia State Champion in both the shot- put and Discus.  I guess he was too busy during track season and didn’t get the memo that Paul Johnson can’t recruit running backs for this option offense. 

Due to the depth at the position, Orwin Smith was the lone A-Back recruited and signed in last year’s class.  Or perhaps he just didn’t read all the articles explaining the shortcomings with this “gimmick offense.”  Remember, he happens to come from the same hometown as starting guard Cord Howard, who undoubtedly spent his entire fall semester last year invoking propaganda techniques and engaging in other underhanded tactics in order to misinform Orwin about what a running back does in the triple option offense to get him to sign on with Tech.  He has good speed, shifty moves, and catches the ball very well, which despite the pundits claims otherwise, is a required skill for an A-Back in this system.  Orwin will add to the depth at the A-Back position for the future as he learns from the sidelines.  The Tech nation welcomes you both to the Flats.  Congratulations!  Next week: the receivers.