Name this player from last year's squad: 174 carries, 1275 yards, 7.33 yards-per-carry, 11 TD's ?
If you guessed Allen Jones Wright -Peeples pat yourself on the back & take a hearty slug of brown liquor. It's Franken-A-Back! Pretty damn impressive line when you combine all their stats together. It's even more impressive when you figure that Anthony Allen led the nation with a ludicrous 9.66 yards-per-carry in 2009. Think that was a fluke based on Allen's size & beastly demeanor? Not so much. Roddy Jones finished second in the country the year before at 8.52 ypc. And before that? Coach Johnson had three guys finish in the top ten in yards-per-carry in 2007 while at Navy. You get my point by now. These guys are a key part of what do offensively yet seem to get overlooked because it's not one guy piling up the statistics but four or five guys sharing the load. Today we'll give them their do & look at the 2010 class of A-backs.
Before we get started let's begin by saying this is a tough position to play. It's one thing to tell a guy, "hey, go arc block that linebacker 15 yards downfield. I know he outweighs you by 30 pounds & he's doing everything he can to avoid you, but just go knock him to the ground." There's a lot more here than just taking an option pitch. Coach Johnson has said he'd ideally like to rotate six guys at A-back throughout a game to keep them fresh. The reality is that last year we played four A-backs consistently & we look to be in a similar situation this year. Anthony Allen moves from A-back to B-back so we'll need to replace his presence on the edge. I expect primarily a four man rotation so let's look at those four & the players behind them:
- the "dean" of our current A-backs is redshirt junior Roddy Jones. Jones is everything you want in a player, tough, intelligent, a willing leader. Last year was essentially a wash for Roddy as he dislocated his wrist several weeks prior to the season opener and while he played through the pain with a plastic cast, he wasn't the same player as in 2008. Jones himself admitted the injury affected him all year long as he had trouble gripping & catching the football. Jones returns healthy & ready for a banner season in 2010 and I expect he'll return to his 2008 level of production. Lest you forget what he is capable of:
The UGA radio call, for your added pleasure........
- starting opposite Jones is junior Embry Peeples. Peeples has the best hands of all the A-backs and increased production from him in the passing game will be a key to replacing the production of the departed BayBay Thomas. Peeples has speed to burn but must continue to develop in the passing game while improving his blocking to become a real force at A-back. CPJ likes him as a receiver & I expect we'll target him more frequently out of the backfield this year.
- Junior Marcus Wright, while maybe the smallest of all our A-backs (Tech generously lists him at 5'7"), is probably the best blocker of the group. Wright has speed to burn and if he gets a seam no one will catch him. At this stage in his career Wright knows the playbook & the speed of ACC competition & having another experienced player at the position is a windfall for Tech. Always a Barrel favorite, I expect big things from "Super Smurf" this year.
- My pick for breakout offensive player of the season behind RG Omoregie Uzzi is sophomore A-back Orwin Smith. Smith is an interesting back in that he doesn't necessarily excel in any single area but is above average in all facets of his game. I expect Smith to play a similar role to that played by Anthony Allen last season of "big" A-back. It was certainly a luxury for CPJ to be able to call plays & get Allen on the edge last year; with his size defensive backs had a hard time bringing him down last season. I expect Smith will be used much the same way this year. With a year under his belt getting acclimated to the offense, I expect Smith to surprise many Tech fans this year with a big season.
- As far as returning players, two redshirt freshman walk-ons, Robbie Godhigh & Jamal Paige, may see time this year. Godhigh in particular looks to be a good blocker which may garner him some playing time.
- As far as youth goes, we recruited four freshman who could potentially play A-back in the future. Charles Perkins & BJ Bostic enrolled in the spring & went through spring practice which definitely gives them a leg up on Tony "Noble Man" Zenon & Deon Hill. I expect all four to redshirt although Bostic may see time returning kicks. Perkins will likely move to B-back & I expect Bostic to play WR leaving Hill & Zenon as future A-backs from this class.
With another year of experience under their belt I expect a good year from our A-backs in 2010. They will most certainly need to step up their efforts in the passing game in order to alleviate the loss of BayBay Thomas. If they run good routes & show decent hands it will add a dynamic to our offense that will make us very difficult to stop. This will be a key for us in 2010. While I'm somewhat apprehensive about losing Allen's size on the edge, I think Orwin Smith can bring that physical style this year & fill in capably. Watch for him to emerge this season. We have great experience here and good depth making A-back a position of strength for us in 2010.
A hearty tip' o' the cap to the Mayor for his photoshop work & his He-Man link. Bravo, sir....