The third in a position group-by-position group breakdown of the 2011 Georgia Tech football team:
Projected starters: BB Preston Lyons (Sr., 6-0, 211), AB Roddy Jones (Sr., 5-9, 202), AB Orwin Smith (Jr., 6-0, 202)
Others to watch: B-back Charles Perkins will challenge Lyons for the starting job. A-backs Embry Peeples and B.J. Bostic backed up Jones and Smith last season and give the Jackets depth at the position. Tony Zenon and Deon Hill are redshirt freshmen who will push to get into the A-back rotation. A-back Marcus Wright is back after missing most of last season due to an injury sustained in a moped accident.
Key losses: B-back Anthony Allen, who ran for nearly 2,000 yards in two seasons at Tech, was selected in the seventh round of the NFL draft. Allen’s backup Lucas Cox, who played 40 games for Tech, graduated.
Key fact: Jones has started all but one game of his career. Jones’ 39 career starts are second most in the ACC among active players behind Virginia Tech wide receiver Danny Coale (40). In Jones and Smith, Tech has two A-backs with experience who are capable of making plays on runs and pass receptions.
Key fact II: The B-back position has produced 1,000 rushing yards or more each season under coach Paul Johnson, going back to his first season at Georgia Southern in 1997. The position doesn’t have the marquee star that it’s had through Johnson’s first three years (Jonathan Dwyer in 2008-09 and Allen in 2010), but Johnson expects production out of the position, and history gives him reason.
Key question: How will the snaps get divided up at B-back? Lyons came into and ended spring practice as the starter, but Perkins improved and will push Lyons for playing time. Behind those two are Richard Watson and David Sims, who help make the B-back position the deepest on the team. Johnson has not been averse to using multiple B-backs. In his final season at Navy, for instance, Eric Kettani ran for 880 yards while Adam Ballard ran for 665.
Key developments: Zenon was one of the most impressive young players in spring practice. Hill also has made considerable progress. Smith has been doing extra strength and conditioning work on his own to improve his speed and explosiveness. Smith thinks the Tech offense failed to hit enough big plays last season.
Outlook: Strong. The B-back is likely the strongest position on the team and A-back may be next. While there are questions about other parts of the offense, the backs have both talent and depth. As noted, the loss of Allen is significant, but Lyons has been a dependable option the past two seasons and Perkins could develop into a breakaway threat.
Your turn: What do you think?
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