Orwin Smith’s personal goal for the season is flavored with boldness and hints of audacity.
The Georgia Tech A-back wants to lead the country in all-purpose yardage, which would require him to assemble one of the greatest seasons in school history. Smith, whose chiseled 6-foot-0, 205-pound frame contains ample boldness, is game.
“I thought all-purpose was something that was unique,” he said. “(I) haven’t really heard anyone set it as a goal before, so that’s kind of how it came.”
Whether he achieves it or not, Smith has placed himself in position to make an earnest attempt. He is running without problems after surgery to repair turf toe. He has an experienced offensive line to open alleys and a familiar quarterback to deliver the ball, both on option pitches and in the passing game. His likely A-back partner is a sound blocker.
Smith said he wanted a goal “that’s going to take hard work (but) I feel like I can still reach it at the same time.”
Tech’s most dynamic ball carrier, Smith is reaching into the statistical stratosphere. Recent NCAA all-purpose yardage kings have averaged around 200 yards per game. Last season, Smith led the Yellow Jackets with 106.1 yards, split up among rushing (51.2), receiving (25.5) and kickoff return (29.3). Eddie Lee Ivery, Tech’s single-season record holder for all-purpose yardage, averaged 170.8 yards per game in 1978.
“I have no problem with him setting big goals, as long as he understands that, with that comes responsibility, and that’s what I expect from him every day,” A-backs coach Lamar Owens said.
Tech’s offense complicates Smith’s pursuit. While Smith’s speed and explosiveness make him a logical candidate to rack up carries, Tech’s option-based spread offense can’t be effective by repeatedly giving him the ball. A defense determined to keep Smith from receiving option pitches can do so by sending defenders at him. And, while the offense includes plays that can get him the ball on direct handoffs and passes, an overemphasis on getting the ball in Smith’s hands could unbalance the offense.
Finding Smith’s maximum utility would seem to require a delicate touch.
As coach Paul Johnson is fond of saying to those who gape at Smith’s career 9.7 yards-per-carry average and call for him to get the ball more, “The guy’s not going to average 10 yards a carry if you hand him the ball 40 times, I promise you. We’ve got to find ways to utilize him in the system.”
Smith’s productivity will also depend upon how much B-back David Sims can draw heat, how accurately quarterback Tevin Washington can deliver him the ball, how well A-backs like Robbie Godhigh and Deon Hill and the wide receivers can block downfield.
“It’s going to take an entire team effort for us to be successful offensively for him to even have a shot at that,” Owens said.
Smith is not obsessed by the goal. As defenses will devote attention to him, Smith figures he can be an excellent decoy. In fall camp, he focused on improving his blocking – a weakness. But it isn’t for Smith’s knack for baiting defenses that Smith is featured on billboards around metro Atlanta, an honor that led Sims to campaign for a change Smith’s nickname from “Big O” to “Billboard O.” Within Tech’s pursuit of an ACC title, Smith wants to deliver.
Smith trained furiously over the summer, adding pool workouts, yoga and exercise with resistance bands to the daily team training sessions. (Parts of it can be seen on a Youtube video Smith made with former Jacket Elris Anyaibe, titled “How Bad Do You Want It?”)
The only player in Tech history in gain 100 yards rushing and receiving in the same game (Kansas last season) and the holder of the highest career yards-per-carry average (9.7) of any ACC player with 1,000 rushing yards won’t get the ball 40 times a game. But he’ll get it enough.
“Last year, I didn’t end like I started, so I’m really eager to start off like last year again and just keep it going this year,” he said. “It’s my last year, and I want to make it my best.”
In case you missed it:
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog