Current Depth Chart:
AB: Tony Zenon, B.J. Bostic, Robbie Godhigh
3 seniors – Washington (R), Watson (R), Smith
2 junior – Sims (R), Godhigh (R)
6 sophomores – Days (R), Perkins (R), Zenon (R), Bostic (R), Hill (R), Laskey
freshmen – Lee (R), Snoddy (R), Thomas, Andrews, Allen
Expected 2013 Class
Open Slots: 1 QB, 2-3 RB
Notes: Georgia Tech loses some very dependable backs from the 2011 team. Roddy Jones, Preston Lyons, and Embry Peeples graduate from last year's
squad. Roddy has been an integral part of the offense since he
joined the team. Peeples was a solid back capable of breaking
off big plays at anytime. And with Lyons, you never lost a beat
when he'd replace or fill in for David Sims. The trio was #3, #4,
and #5 (Peeples, Jones, Lyons) in rushing for the Jackets in 2011 so
there's a lot of production to replace. Jones and Peeples were
also #4 and #5 respectively in receiving. Peeples also handled
8 kickoff returns.
Having a system in
place where you can plug in good players from the program will help,
but this group won't be as easy to replace as just plugging someone
in at the position. There seems to be a drop off in the A-back
pool when you take Peeples and Jones out of the equation. Orwin
Smith is certainly in a position to continue to star in the position.
Smith accounted for 12 touchdowns in 2011 (11 rushing and 1 receiving),
but the rest of the group really needs to prove itself. Zenon
showed some flashes of ability in limited action. Certainly he
has some speed as he showed in his 79 yard kickoff return against Maryland
(though he was caught from behind when he seemed to relax thinking he
was home free). Zenon will be penciled in as a starter to begin
spring. The returning experience from last year at A Back besides
Smith & Zenon consists of 3 combined carries from Godhigh &
Hill. Many feel that a player like Broderick Snoddy, who redshirted
last year, really has a chance to move up the depth chart and compete
for a key role at A Back.
Though there are some
key people to replace, I don't want it to sound like a dim picture
for the running game. In fact, it's quite the opposite.
If you count QB, BB and AB, the top three rushers on the team will still
be there in 2012. Tevin Washington led the team with 1,125 yard.
B-back David Sims followed with 698 yards and then Orwin Smith with
615 yards. It just goes to show how much Tech depends on the QB
& Full back (BB) as opposed to other teams who lean so heavily on
their main tailbacks.
Back to Sims, he was
outstanding as the starting B Back following a move long-anticipated
from the QB position. Sims contributed 8 touchdowns on the year
(7 rushing, 1 receiving) and was a go-to player on short yardage situations.
Even still, he averaged over 5 yards per carry. Perkins, Watson
and Laskey will need to step up to show they can spell Sims as capably
as Lyons has done.
There were no loses
from the quarterback position and two players were added. So,
expect some movement there at some point before game one of 2012.
I'm not sure the coaches will be able to find enough practice reps
for the five players either returning or being added to the roster.
As we saw with Sims, bringing in great athletes as quarterbacks means
you'll probably find a solid QB plus you'll be able to move others
around to use their talents elsewhere. Washington was another
people thought would eventually move to A Back but he actually stuck
around and became the starter. Who from this group will end up
finding a home at another position? Time will tell.
As for the competition
for the quarterback position, Tevin may not be as entrenched as it appears
following a season where he started every game and led the team in rushing.
Georgia Tech in fall could match the political atmosphere at the same
time where the incumbent could face a stiff challenge from a party not
currently in power. The issues with Washington (back to the player,
not the city!) have little to do with his ability to run. He is
one of the best open field runners on the team. As for how he
runs the option, I have little issues with his decision-making.
He can be nearly flawless on his choices to hold the ball or pitch it.
Sure he'll make a mistake here and there and yes a mistake can often
lead to a turnover, but that's more of the nature of this offense
when you have to make those calls so many times per game.
Washington threw 11
touchdowns to 8 interceptions and was under a 50% completion rate.
Of the 11 touchdown, 7 came in the first 3 games against Western Carolina,
Middle Tennessee, and Kansas. Only 4 passing touchdowns came in
the remaining 10 games. Tech went on a run of 7 games during the
season without a passing touchdown. The four regular season losses
came in that span before Tevin changed it by having a touchdown throw
in a losing effort against Utah in the bowl game (a game Tech really
should have held on to for a win). So it goes to show, sure there
are some times that the running game is so good, that you don't necessarily
need to pass in order to win. That happened against Maryland,
Clemson, and Duke. Tech beat Maryland by 5 and Duke by 7.
Only the Clemson game seems to an outlier to the rest of the data.
You can win (and by a comfortable margin) by not passing if you can
run for almost 400 yards and 4 touchdowns while the defense contributes
2 interceptions and 2 fumble recoveries. Guess what? That's
not going to happen often. It certainly didn't in regular season
losses to Virginia, Miami, Virginia Tech, and Georgia.
It would seem to most
that in order to put together a better season, the QB will need to help
balance the offense with a few more touchdowns, particularly against
the tougher competition Tech faces. Can Washington improve in
that area or would someone else be better there? And would someone
else be able to manage the option as well or who you trade off a better
passing arm for more devastating mistakes in the option game?
Tech fans have made
loving the backup a pastime just like any other fans of other teams.
People need to remember that change can be upward or bring you down
further. So be cautious when recommending or, in the case of fans,
rooting for change. In my opinion, Washington has done a good
job bringing the offense to this point, but I'm not yet convinced
he can take the team to a place of winning consistently because good
teams will force him to prove he can win (or keep defenses honest) with
his ability to pass. I'm also not convinced we have a backup
on the roster who provides a better option for the team but I, like
many others, am very intrigued with one in particular.
The backups right now
are Synjyn Days and Vad Lee. Days was the backup last year while
other observers thought Lee might be better. Days had already
put a year into the program for his redshirt season and the coaches
probably wanted to not use Lee as a backup as long as Washington stayed
healthy. Days looked a good bit like Washington did as Nesbitt's
backup. He looked not sure of himself or confident in the decision
he made in the option. But since Tevin looked that way, I'm
sure Days could also get much better there with more reps as Washington
did. In a small sample size, Days actually hit on 67% of his passes
(8-for-12), including a 66-yard pass (his longest of the year) in mop
up duty against Western Carolina. But he also was 3-for-5 against
archrival Georgia for 78 yards. Synjyn also had 4 fumbles (2 lost)
in limited play as well. So there are things to point to as encouraging
and things that need a lot of work. The passing efficiency would
be his ticket to supplanting Washington but taking care of the football
will be a more important first step to master. The intriguing
one, as always, is the one with all of the hype that not many have had
the privilege to see live. Vad Lee has a reputation as being the
one who can really connect the passing game to the proficient Tech running
game that was second in the nation in rushing yards per game.
Right now I'll take what I know I get with Washington but I'm certainly
going to be interested to see/hear how Days and Lee handle their opportunity
in the spring.
To tie it all back
into recruiting, two new recruits will also be in the mix at the quarterback
position. Dennis Andrews will actually join Days and Lee in the
spring primary race to attempt to unseat Washington. Andrews is
the lone player from the '12 class to enroll early. Then another
gifted athlete and one of Tech's top players in the class in Justin
Thomas will try to make his mark in fall. He spurned the nation's
#1 team and recruiting giant Alabama for the opportunity to be a QB
in this offense. It just goes to show how critical of a spring
it will be for Days, Lee and Andrews not only to make their case to
jump the starter but also to make their case to remain a quarterback
before the position gets too crowded.
Thomas (5-11, 180)
is a four-star player who is ranked as the #28 wide receiver by Scout.com.
He's the second highest rated Georgia Tech player in the 2012 class.
Justin was #179 on the Scout 300 list and participated in the Offense-Defense
All-Star game. Let's not forget that he made Andrew Bone's
post-season all-state team as the second team quarterback! If
you were curious, the first team quarterback was Jameis Winston, a 5-star
athlete heading to Florida State, so he was in good company.
Thomas led his high
school team Prattville to the 6-A state championship this past season.
He rushed for 151 yards (2 scores, including a 72-yard touchdown run)
on 20 carries and threw 13-for-20 for 153 yards (1 score). Thomas
was MVP of the 35-34 thriller that ended with a failed Hoover 2-point
conversion for the win.
Many know the story,
but Thomas was a commit to National Champions Alabama before changing
his pledge to Georgia Tech. Thomas was actually committed there
since November of 2010. In December of 2011, after wavering a
while on the Crimson Tide, Justin switched over to become a Yellow Jacket.
He wavered due to a change in plans Alabama had for him. Thomas described
it at the time to GoJackets.com's Matt Osborne: "After awhile,
the Alabama coaches told me that they wanted to go a different route
and see how I play in the system before they made a decision on my position,"
Thomas said. "They weren't sure if I would be able to play quarterback
or not, which is what I want to play. That was the main factor in my
decision. That was what I wanted to play and I felt Tech was going to
give me the best opportunity to play it." Prior to the switch,
Thomas had been in contact with LSU, GT, and FSU before picking Tech.
Thomas had a bevy of other offers including ones from Florida, Auburn,
Florida State, and LSU.
Insight: "The Yellow
Jackets struck gold in getting Justin Thomas. He was the fastest
player in the state of Alabama this past year with blazing sub-4.3 40-yard
dash speed. He can win a game with his legs and burn you with
his arm. He is an accurate passer who can throw on the run."
– Andrew Bone
"Thomas is an athlete
that is versatile and he makes plays when the ball is in his hands.
He plays quarterback now and he has an above average arm, but his height
will likely lead a move on the next level. He could be a very good slot
wide receiver, he could be used out of the backfield, and he could be
used as a return man on special teams. He reminds me a little of 2011
Alabama signee Blake Sims, an athletic quarterback that came out of
Gainesville, Ga. Sims is a little longer, but Thomas is a little thicker,
and more compact. He has good speed, he can change direction well, and
he just has a good feel for the game. If he moves to receiver, like
Scout expects him to, he will have to learn that position. His natural
athleticism and competitiveness will likely get him on the field early
on the next level though." – Chad Simmons (Article from November
Notes: I have 5 criteria
that I look at when trying to figure out whether a recruit was a good
get or not. Those criteria are: Rankings/Honors/Awards, Offers,
Personality/Demeanor, Physical Measurables (size, speed, etc.), and
Need/Fit. Most people probably make the same judgments whether
they do it consciously or not. These criteria served OL Chase Roberts well in my article last week but what does it do for the fan
favorite Justin Thomas?
Rankings and offers
pretty much seal the deal for most fans. Any 4-star player with
offers from football factory schools will win over just about any Tech
fan. In terms of size, there could be a question considering he's
looking to be a quarterback. It was obviously more of an issue
for Alabama than it was for GT. Being a 5'11" QB in Alabama's
offense is more problematic than it is for Tech's. A quarterback
in Tech's offense is more of a running back and a 5'11", 180-pound
high school senior becomes an ideal running back size as he approaches
200 pounds or so. It remains to be seen if size is an issue in
the passing game, but it shouldn't be a problem for running an option
offense. Certainly, his speed plays well in any position and in
any offense. A reported 4.3 40-yard dash would make him the fastest
QB Tech fans have seen running the offense. If he sticks there,
it could be very interesting to watch.
As for personality
or demeanor, that's always one of the toughest things to know.
Coaches get a great feel for this aspect while most fans usually have
no idea. It's a big knowledge gap between coaches and fans and
sometimes explains why the coaches may not be as high on some player
they may find talented but flakey and a risk where a fan only sees offers,
rankings and 40 times. I've not seen enough on Thomas' demeanor
to really say. Some may see a commitment switch as a knock against
a kid, and I wouldn't disagree. In this case though, it's
understandable. He committed so early though and that doesn't
seem to often be such a great plan when things can change so quickly
in college football. So I wouldn't agree necessarily with that
judgment call but you can chalk it up to youth and overexcitement.
The switch is understandable since Alabama changed its tune on what
position he'd play.
Finally, would a player
like Thomas be a good fit at Georgia Tech and in this offense?
Without question this is the type of player Coach Paul Johnson should
bring in to be given a shot at quarterback. If he sticks then
you have a guy who runs a 4.3 40 at QB who was thought well enough of
as an athlete to get offers from all of the best football teams.
If he doesn't work out at QB then his enormous abilities can be used
elsewhere. Tech has a great past of such players like Dawan Landry,
Tony Hollings, and now David Sims. Josh Nesbitt was also a good
"athlete" who wasn't given a chance to play QB by the football
factories. But he stuck there and led Tech to an ACC Championship.
Hopefully the factories will be similarly wrong again here.
Andrews (6-0, 170)
is a three-star player ranked as the #79 quarterback by Scout.com.
Dennis was a summer commit for the Yellow Jackets and, as mentioned
previously, is the only player from this class to have already enrolled
into school. He'll be on the team for spring practice.
Andrews chose GT over offers from Iowa State, South Florida, Texas Tech
(as a defensive back), Vanderbilt and Western Kentucky.
More excitement and
big plays is what Andrews would like to bring to the offense.
He had this to say to GoJackets.com's Sean Breslin about 5 months
before he actually committed to Tech: "I want to bring more excitement
to the offense, because I didn't see a lot of that last year," Andrews
said. "It may take a little time to adapt to the triple-option, but
I feel like it won't be too much of a challenge because my offense
at Godby uses a lot of the same reads." Hopefully he saw some
of that excitement in the 2011 season and that he brings some of his
own to campus this spring.
Insight: "Most programs
recruited Andrews as a DB/WR, but the one program he can maybe succeed
at QB at is Georgia Tech. Gifted athlete that was known to be
very clutch. His best attributes are his ability to throw on the
run and his speed to take it the distance. He will need to bulk
up, but he has the body to do it. If QB does not work out, he
will be able to contribute at another position. Comes from a very
talented program in Godby." – Geoffrey Vogt
Notes: Andrews has
a good but not great ranking and offer list. Actually, both I
think are nothing to sneeze at. Any three-star player with the
right coaches can help you win games. And that's a decent list
of offers to have by summertime before your senior season. If
teams were unsure of where exactly he'd best fit in, they still seems
pretty high on his athleticism since he's been viewed as a QB, WR,
or DB. He gets a mixed vote overall for measurables. He's
tall enough but will need to add weight according to Vogt and according
to the scales if 170 pounds is correct. Having the speed to "take
it the distance" is a good physical attribute and good for QB in this
offense. There are some positives I've read on personality/demeanor.
Being known as "clutch" is a great thing to read about a future
quarterback. He also comes off as confident in interviews.
I want my quarterbacks to be that way. The key will be does he
make good decisions like Tevin in the option and is Vogt right in that
throwing on the run is one of his best attributes? If so, he'll
make for an interesting quarterback. As for need/fit, again, I'll
take the kid known to be a good athlete and give him his shot at quarterback
knowing he's been recruited by good schools for other positions as
well, so I know there is more than one path for this kid to make it
to the field. Dennis rates as a solid pickup in my book though
having the body type to build to his frame will be important or he could
go the way of many other lanky athletes that we've seen over the past
years. Having the body type to add the extra 15-20 pounds will
be important particularly for the toll hits take on all backs in this
offense at this level of football.
Allen (6-2, 210) is
a three-star player ranked as the #64 OLB by Scout.com. He chose
Tech over offers from Arkansas, Boston College, Duke, Florida State,
Kentucky, Nebraska, South Florida, Syracuse, TCU, Tennessee, SUM, Marshall,
and UCF. It quite an amazing list considering he started playing
football his junior season in high school. Allen was more into
basketball as his favorite sport before finding football. Allen
was an excellent student boasting a near 4.0 GPA so Tech was an attraction
as a strong academic consideration. Most schools liked Allen as
a linebacker but Tech again differentiated itself offering a chance
to play on offense.
that really came on after his junior film hit the circuit. Excellent
athlete that has natural play-making ability. Many teams
recruited him as a linebacker, but Georgia Tech signed him as a big
back that pound. He can do that. At times showed the explosiveness
for bigger type gains. Hits with a purpose on defense. High character."
– Geoffrey Vogt
Notes: Allen has a
solid ranking and wow, if those offers are correct, that's quite a
list. He passes those two tests right off. I've watched
some of his interviews and he certainly carries himself well when looking
at personality. He must work hard too as shown by his great grades
in high school so he had to do that while balancing playing sports as
well as the rest of the social aspects that go along with being a high
school student, and probably a popular one. I like that Vogt tagged
Allen with, "high character." The evidence points to positives
in the personality category.
His size is what you'd
expect out of a Division I athlete. He's already built to contribute
early. I have some questions as to whether he's a perfect fit
for this offense or not. Most schools seemed to like him as a
linebacker and that would appear to be an ideal spot given his size.
A cynic would have to ask if he wasn't given the opportunity to play
offense to help the school's chances of landing him. Even if
that's the case, the coaches have shown that they will give the kid
the shot they promised. It will be interesting to see if Allen
can stick there. If he does I think he will have had to given
quite a performance. If I had to guess, I'd say he's a linebacker
long term – and potentially a very good one.
The one who got
Georgia Tech wasn't
a finalist for Fuller but did make an early impression on Scout.com's
#3 quarterback. There didn't seem to be any other really close
misses here. Here are the others who were listed as having GT
offers: Bilal Marshall (Purdue), Brenden Motley (Virginia Tech),
Chris Moody (South Carolina), and Darion Monroe (Tulane).
Drake was recruited
for a long time by GT. He was a high school teammate of Jabari
Hunt-Days at Hillgrove. GT was an early top 3 for Drake along
with UGA and Vanderbilt. Later on Alabama offered and elbowed
their way into his top 3 in place of Vanderbilt before also knocking
out the two Georgia schools in the final decision.
picked Kentucky over GT, NCSU, and Vanderbilt. He continued to
keep things open and took extra visits. GT and NCSU battled for
his services in the end but he went with the Wolfpack. He seems
to prefer being a feature back in a traditional offense versus Tech's
option style offense.
Other offers reportedly
went out to the following: Keith Marshall (Georgia), Mike Davis (South
Carolina), Drew Harris (Virginia Tech), Imani Cross (Nebraska), Tevin Coleman (Indiana), Justin Taylor (Kentucky), Desmon Peoples (Rutgers),
Danny Dilliard (Miami), Kenno Loyal (Mississippi), and Nick Tompkins
I think GT fans will be plenty happy with the choices at quarterback. There really wasn't a true close miss there. At running back the misses stung a little more. The main issue I see is that there are so many players with GT offers who Tech will have to see again in the future as opponents on the field. It's tough to get over the hump and still lose out on multiple players at the back positions to teams like North Carolina State, Georgia and Virginia Tech along with others.