Georgia Tech '08 Recruiting Review – Backs

With National Signing Day over and Georgia Tech's recruiting class completed, GoJackets.com is taking a position-by-position look at the 2008 recruiting class. Today, we will look at the backs.

A-Backs, B-Backs

New Additions (3):
Richard Watson, Marcus Wright, and Embry Peeples

Depth Chart:
BB: Jonathan Dwyer, Quincy Kelly, Trevor Bray, Lucas Cox, Richard Watson
AB: Roddy Jones, Tyler Evans, Embry Peeples
AB: Jamaal Evans, Marcus Wright

Position Needs:
Just like in the conversation on quarterbacks, a new offensive scheme changes the entire conversations on the needs at this particular position. Not only is the profile for targeted players at the position apt to change, like with quarterback, but the positions themself will be different.

Instead of tailbacks and fullbacks, Tech is now looking for A-Backs (AB) and B-Backs (BB). You may also see the names be used interchangeably. For instance, B-Back may be referred to as fullback or A-Back could be called a slot back.

If you were a "big back" or fullback previously you'll now likely be a BB. If you were a "small back" or "scat back" in the old offense, you may now see yourself as an AB. Confused yet?

Let's move on to real examples from the current team on where they'll be in the new offense. More of the current backs on the team will fit more into the BB role. All previous fullbacks – Quincy Kelly, Trevor Bray, Lucas Cox – are in this role now as well as former tailback Dwyer, who is now pushing 240 pounds.

Unfortunately that only leaaves, to our knowledge today, three players to man two positions for the AB spots. Fromer tailbacks Jones, Evans and Evans (Tyler is now on scholarship as he was promised by Coach Chan Gailey – Coach Johnson made good on that deal) are all in the slot now. Certainly, others may be given a look there as well. Based on what we know the coaches are looking for in an AB, someone like Correy Earls could be an option for them in spring.

So the need was great for A-Backs in recruiting. The new staff had a short time to try and get as many quality backs as they could... a tough test indeed. A-Backs should have homerun potential with the ball in their hands. And, ideally, they need to be able to block, catch passes and pitches.

There obviously wasn't a huge need for another B-Back in the system in terms of numbers but I think the coaches would like to get at least one each year at that spot. Players there need to be big and durable. They will get a lot of touches in this offense. Finding big backs with speed too would be ideal.

Tech graduated three valuable backs from last year's team. The biggest name leaving from last year's team is Tashard Choice, who's a cinch to be drafted in the early rounds for the NFL. Choice is the back-to-back rushing champ in the ACC and first team all-conference. Mike Cox, a long time starter at FB, should also get some promising looks to get on with a team in "The League." Rashaun Grant is the third in the group. He might have made a good AB in the next offense but he instead moves on after a career at Tech where he didn't realize his full potential on the depth charts thanks to injuries and some stunningly good competition at his position during his tenure.

Spring Practice Report:
For spring Dwyer will head into it as the logical choice for starting B-back. He'll get a chance to be the horse in the offense as Coach Johnson has stated that the most important positons are: Center-QB-BB. Quincy Kelly will probably get the most reps as the backup initially. Bray will certainly get into the mix as soon as he's healthy enough. Lucas Cox is an interesting case. He's Mike's younger brother and was also promised a scholarship by Coach Gailey this year and, once again, Coach Johnson will honor that. It will be fun watching him to see how he stacks up to his brother.

Not many choices at A-back for the spring. Roddy Jones, by all accounts, really impressed the coaches in his redshirt season. He is likely to be pencilled in as a spring starter. When recruited along with Dwyer, it was always a questions as to how those 4-star prospects would work out carries so both could get onto the field. Now it works out perfectly for the two stud backs from last year's class as they'll be lining up in different positions.

Jamaal Evans and Tyler Evans could battle for the other starting spot initially. I'm not sure if either have the home run speed that the coaches want at the position but both are quality backs. He's a more of a shifty, elusive runner with great moves. Jamaal, I'm assuming doesn't head back to Texas in the off-season as some feared he might during the season. Supposedly he's totally on board now. Tyler is smallish but very tough for his size. He runs hard even in traffic and will be hungry for the chance to earn reps.

Who GT signed:

Richard Watson

Height: 6-1
Weight: 220
Home Town (High School): Tallahassee (Florida A&M University)
Other offers included: Alabama, Arkansas, BC, UCLA
Lead GT Recruiting Coach: Charles Kelly
Scout.com Stars: ***
Scout.com State Ranking: 100
Scout.com Southeastern Ranking: NR
Scout.com National Ranking by Position: 4 (FB)
Scout.com National Ranking (Regardless of Position): NR
Other Honors: 1B all-state 1st team

Watson was a great pickup for Coach Gailey initially. The current staff did a great job of keeping him a Yellow Jacket and now the new staff considers him "an ideal fit" for the B-back position. One day Watson could be a real workhorse in this offense. He's everything coaches want there – big, powerful, strong, good runner and even has good speed for a guy his size. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for him to break onto the depth chart. There are certainly many others lined up to backup Dwyer right now so Watson could be a candidate for a redshirt. I suspect though that he'll be a factor early on in his career at Tech.

Recruiting Analyst Scott Kennedy on Richard Watson:
"Big back. On most offenses he's going to be a fullback – which is where we had him listed. He's got enough wiggle that he could be a tailback. Good speed. He can move in the open field but he's a guy that's going to run over you instead of run around you. Good pickup. He's real good with the ball in his hands – good blocker too."

Scout.com Player Evaluation: Watson is a big, bruising back that runs with tremendous power. He's a north-south runner that is very tough between the tackles, especially when his shoulders are square and he's running down hill. Watson runs with a low pad level, has good balance and quick feet for a bigger back. He also shows the ability to get yards after first contact. He doesn't have great speed but he's the type of back that can control a game by moving the chains.









Marcus Wright

Height: 5'7"
Weight: 170
Home Town (High School): San Antonio (Reagan H.S.)
Other offers included: Tulsa
Lead GT Recruiting Coach: Jeff Monken
Scout.com Stars: ***
Scout.com State Ranking: NR
Scout.com Southeastern Ranking: NR
Scout.com National Ranking by Position: NR
Scout.com National Ranking (Regardless of Position): NR
Other Honors: 5A offensive POY. Parade All-American, Army All-American game

Wright was the first player to commit to GT who was not a target under Coach Gailey. I found it very fitting that Marcus was the first of "Paul Johnson's players" – so to speak. He was targeted to be a great fit with the new offense giving coaches a new weapon with the characteristics they wanted. He may be one of the fastest recruits in the country this year – true homerun speed. He comes in with many accolades for all of his impressive successes while playing high school ball in Texas. If he's as good as he looks on film and the A-back depth doesn't get solved through spring, he could conceivably figure into the mix as a true freshman. The same could be said about any A-back prospects as well and Wright looks like a good one.

Recruiting Analyst Alan Zepeda on Marcus Wright:
"Though small in size he is big in speed and ability to hit the hole before the defense can react. His strength is making the extra yards with his vision by picking his way through the defenders and cutting back inside. Another aspect that sticks out is how low he runs to the ground with his shoulders forward making for extra yards on each carry. He will need more coaching on the finer techniques of the position but he has a ton of talent and has the ability to make a big play at any given moment."




Embry Peeples

Height: 5'10"
Weight: 170
Home Town (High School): Orlando, Fl (Dr. Phillips)
Other offers included: Colorado, WVU, LSU
Lead GT Recruiting Coach: Brian Jean-Mary
Scout.com Stars: ***
Scout.com State Ranking: 85
Scout.com Southeastern Ranking: NR
Scout.com National Ranking by Position: 69 (RB)
Scout.com National Ranking (Regardless of Position): NR

Like Wright, Peeples is smallish but very fast. The previous staff liked him as a return guy mostly but now he too will get the chance to shine with regular snaps in the offense. Embry is the first player in the class to commit to Tech, so he's been on board for a long time and didn't waiver through the coaching change. He'll have a chance to push the current players on the roster once he begins practicing with the team later this summer.

Recruiting Analyst Scott Kennedy on Embry Peeples:
"Fast, he's real fast. He's just undersized. A small guy who's good in space. Nice combination – a change up back if you throw in Richard Watson, a battering ram – then you throw in Embry Peeples. He's just really, really quick but… he's just small."



The one who got away:
Covaughn Deboskie

All of the players GT offered who didn't end up here were offered before the coaching change. Only Wright was brought in after Coach Johnson took over. So most of the names of guys Tech didn't land were known about for a long time. There weren't really any close call losses around signing day. Some of the players Tech offered would have, or did, lose their offer after Watson committed, as was the case with Ralph Bolden. Others, like Deboskie, were good enough for Coach Gailey's staff to take on even with Watson already in the mix. Others Tech extended offers to along the way include: Dontavius Jackson, Sam McGuffie, Jamie Harper, and Chris Jordan (RB/LB).

Final Analysis:
I think we are off to a great start for the new offense with these three players as backs. All three seem to be very good fits based on what coaches have stated they are looking for. Tevin Washington could very easily fall into the A-back position as well, which would make it look even stronger. Coaches mentioned that as a possibility on signing day though it seems certain he'll get a look at quarterback first. Another possibility to play A-back if there is a numbers pinch is Jon Lockhart. It was also mentioned on NSD that Jon could get a look on offense. He played both ways in high school and is a great athlete. The slot could be a good fit for him if the coaches see fit to put him there instead of at corner.

The one complaint I would have is with the numbers at the A-back position. Understandably it's tough to announce a new coach and a new offense and expect to get all the players you'll need right away. Keeping Watson & Peeples was huge and adding Wright is a huge step in the right direction. Coaches will have the opportunity to fully populate the A-back position a little better with next year's class.

Thanks to Scott Kennedy, Alan Zepeda and Rod Mackenzie for contributions to this article!


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