Georgia Tech '10 Recruiting Review – RB

With National Signing Day over and Georgia Tech's recruiting class completed, GoJackets.com is taking a position-by-position look at the 2010 recruiting class. Today, we will look at running backs.

Running Backs

New Additions (4)

Charles Perkins, B.J. Bostic, Deon Hill, Tony Zenon

Losses (1)

Jonathan Dwyer

Depth Chart

BB: Anthony Allen, Preston Lyons (out), Richard Watson, Lucas Cox, Charles Perkins, Daniel Drummond
AB: Roddy Jones, Marcus Wright, Jamal Paige, B.J. Bostic, Tony Zenon
AB: Embry Peeples, Orwin Smith, Chris Jackson (questionable), Robert Godhigh, Deon Hill

Position Needs

After Georgia Tech hired Paul Johnson as head coach, many Tech fans scrambled to try and figure out what the new offense was going to look like – much like fans are doing in theses weeks following the announcement of Al Groh as Defensive Coordinator. Everyone knew basically what an offensive linemen, wide receiver and quarterback did in Johnson's offense and running backs, for the most part, but what people weren't quite sure of was how to distinguish an A-back from a B-back and to know what made an ideal player at those positions. With two years of witnessing how coaches have used personnel, it seems clear that the B-back is not just where full back types go to play. Like the tight end, players formerly known as full backs – larger, slower, blocking type backs – seem to be unnecessary in this offense.

When this offense was introduced, basically all of the little guys went to A-back and all of the big backs went to B-back. Coaches had the following players to work with at B-back: Jonathan Dwyer, Quincy Kelly, Lucas Cox, and Richard Watson. Only one was an I-formation tailback – Dwyer. And that appears to be how coaches prefer that position to look. The B-back is really supposed to be the feature back, the tailback, not just a bigger sized back. He has to be able to withstand the pounding of running inside but also has to have the wheels to take it a long way, if not all the way. Following Dwyer's move to the NFL, the best back on the team was A-back Anthony Allen and he, not surprisingly, is now the 2010 starting B-back. Lucas Cox (6-0, 251) – one of those former full backs – after a year of being a solid but not ideal A-back, has been moved to B-back for spring but there were rumors he'd end up at linebackers. Injuries, and diminishing depth at the position likely means that Lucas will find a home at B-back for a while before any experiment like that is again given consideration. Like A-back, Cox doesn't fit that ideal guy at the position but he'll find a way to hold his own. Quincy Kelly's football career ended for medical reasons, and Richard Watson (6-1, 231) has struggled to find traction on the depth chart. So it's becoming more clear on what coaches want as a B-back and what skill sets they seek based on who they've given playing time to.

What about A-backs? For that position, coaches obviously want someone who can tote the rock, and like B-backs, it's always preferred to have someone who can take it the distance. Johnson like to throw to A-backs as well, so pass-catching ability is as important. Like the B-backs, Coach Johnson didn't start out with an ideal hand. Sure there was Roddy Jones coming off of a redshirt season and Embry Peeples & Marcus Wright were joining the program, but there were also some other misfit parts. Jamaal Evans, Greg Smith, Tyler Evans, and Austin Barrick made up the rest of the group initially slotted at A-back. Jamaal transferred out and was a nifty runner but he lacked high end speed and wasn't known as much of a receiver. Greg Smith also transferred out feeling like he was more of a wide receiver in a traditional offense than a cog in the triple option. Greg actually was not bad at what he did despite not being an ideal back. He obviously could catch, coming over from the wide receiver position. He could also run pretty well too as noted by the 13 carries for 98 yards in 2008 – a 7.5 YPC average – to go along with two touchdowns. Tyler Evans wasn't a bad match for the position and was a tough runner for his size though he didn't hold up in terms of injuries and had to quit for medical reasons. He was smallish like Wright and Peeples but not fast and not thought to be as good of a receiver. Then there was Austin Barrick. It's hard to believe that the guy who has started at offensive tackle for the last year and a half struggled to find a position in this offense initially after the tight end position was phased out. Austin played A-back in spring of '08, but was clearly not cut out for that role.

Two years into the Johnson era, the personnel is starting to shape up more like what this offense needs – particularly at A-back – though it's not there just yet. Heading into recruiting, the B-back position still looked light on long term prospects. A-back depth was looking good with the addition of Alabama transfer Chris Jackson. The only criticism I'd have for that position is that it is a position where Tech can push this offense to another level but hasn't done so yet. Sure Roddy Jones had a very nice year in 2008 and Anthony Allen was outstanding in 2009 while Roddy's performance tailed off in a big way while returning from an injury. It would be an even more amazing offense if both A-backs could have great years at the same time. Also, this offense could use a game-breaking impact player at the position to take attention away from the B-back. Think about Tech's offense with someone like Percy Harvin or Noel Devine at A-back for defenses to have to deal with on every down. Tech can now put together some pretty good combinations at the back positions but will be a true national contender by recruiting that one athlete who can take the A-back position to a new level. That signature player hasn't surfaced yet.

In terms of numbers B-back is light, particularly with the early departure of Dwyer. The goal should have been to recruit at least one. Also keeping in mind that Tech needs more feature backs rather than full back types, it wouldn't hurt to get a second, but that is tough to do in this scenario where numbers for the class are already tight.

A-backs actually looked okay in terms of numbers since no one was leaving the position due to graduation or attrition. With Jones, Peeples, Wright, Smith and Jackson in the fold as scholarship players and capable walk-ons like Paige and Godhigh, there really isn't a need for more than one or two more at the position.

Spring Practice Report

The B-back position became a bit of a mess for spring after several off-season events. Jonathan Dwyer, though it wasn't a surprise, chose to declare himself eligible for the upcoming NFL draft. His backup from the 2009 season Preston Lyons had off-season shoulder surgery and will miss spring. Daniel Drummond (6-3, 234), while able to participate in practice, will be ineligible for ten games this upcoming season, likely meaning a reduction of spring reps.

Help is on the way though. Anthony Allen, the top returning back on the team moves over to B-back and becomes the heir to Dwyer's role. Allen gained 626 yards on 64 carries last year and another 112 yards on five receptions. He totaled six touchdowns on the season by ground and another by air. Allen (6-0, 239) has bulked up to surpass Dwyer's playing weight of last season. Though fans' criticism of Dwyer's weight appears to be unfounded in hindsight, there hasn't been much talk this year so far of Allen's increased pounds. It will be interesting to see if the additional muscle helps Anthony take more of a pounding in spring while maintaining his speed from last season.

Lucas Cox moves over from A-back to help out with depth. Cox, as an A-back, went from starting all 13 games in 2008 and gaining 205 yards and three touchdowns to only providing depth at the position in 2009. Teams knew he was not a strong option to run in '08 and planning accordingly defensively. With increased depth at the position in '09 Cox was held to only 9 carries for 31 yards. He's probably a better B-back but at 250+ pounds now, it will be interesting to see if he has any ability to break away while running in the open field. The off-season rumors of moving to linebacker made sense but the reduced depth at B-back means a familiar offensive piece will remain on that side of the ball.

Perhaps the most exciting piece that is being added is newly signed B-back Charles Perkins. Perkins enrolled in January, just in time to help Tech out at a position in need of depth and talent. I'll go into more depth on Perkins below but he immediately becomes a potential contributor on the depth chart and will have a great chance to make a case for playing as a true freshman in 2010.

The final piece at B-back is Richard Watson, the lone returner to the position who's completely healthy and eligible. Watson played in six games in 2009, totaling 31 yards on 9 carries and adding a 7-yard touchdown in the waning minutes of the 49-10 thrashing of Duke. Though Watson fits more of the old full back skill sets, he does have decent wheels. This spring will be his best chance to show that he's able to contribute in this offense. Holding off guys like Perkins and Cox in spring will be key to Richard's chances on the depth chart in fall.

Following spring it is assumed at this time that Preston Lyons will remain the favorite to be Anthony Allen's backup, though spring could change that. Lyons looked like a very capable player at the position last season carrying 30 times for 139 yards (4.6 YPC). Curiously, Tech officially lists his weight as 189 pounds now after being 211 pounds last year. That seems out of place but I'd have to assume he'll be 200+ by the time fall comes around.

At A-back the hope is that Roddy Jones (5-9, 198) returns 100% healthy and to his 2008 form whereas he played banged up in 2009. In '08 Roddy was third on the team in rushing behind Dwyer and Josh Nesbitt. He had 723 yards rushing and 4 touchdowns and made several of the season's key rushing plays. He also contributed another 155 yards and a touchdown in the air as the team's third leading receiver. In '09 though he regressed and appeared gun shy. His rushing totals dropped to 360 yards and three touchdowns and didn't contribute at all in the passing game. Roddy also had no touches in the BCS Bowl game against Iowa. He'll once again be counted on as the number one A-back. Spring will be a good stage to see if the old Roddy has returned or if others will move up to challenge his status. His status as a baseball player now will not affect football at all this spring as all football activities will take precedence.

The up-and-comers include the diminutive but capable Embry Peeples (5-10, 177) and Marcus Wright (5-8, 180). Wright and Peeples were just behind Jones on the season rushing list for Tech. Wright had 190 yards and 3 scores while Peeples had 170 yards. What gives Embry the edge though over Wright and others is his pass-catching ability. He was second on the team in receptions after Demaryius Thomas in 2009 with 8 catches for 244 yards and a touchdown. He had some notable drops as well and will look to continue to show improvement in spring but now he'll receive many more reps and a likely starting spot to help set the stage.

But 2010 may be the year Coach Johnson ushers in the bigger A-back. Look for serious depth chart threats this spring and fall from Orwin Smith (6-0, 208) and Chris Jackson (6-1, 215). Both guys have a lot in their favor physically. They are both very strong and if they can show they have to wheels to break those 20+ yard plays in practice then the smaller guys ahead of them may start to look over their shoulders. Orwin received some experience last year as a true freshman. He carried the ball 5 times for 26 yards but most of his contributions were on special teams where he was the team's leading kick returner. In that role he did show the combination of strength and speed that will play well at his A-back position. He was durable running 37 kicks back at an average of 24 YPC and he showed open field moves and speed with his longest return of 83 yards at Duke, where personal records go to break.

Chris Jackson's presence at Tech practices is perhaps the longest awaited in memory. After being a fan favorite commit from the '08 class, Jackson switched his pledge over to Alabama after Coach Chan Gailey was let go. After a year at Alabama he made the switch back to where he belonged all along and was once again a Yellow Jacket. In '09 he was able to practice with the team but only after school started and public practices were closed. Fans will finally get to see Chris play, or will they? He is listed as questionable on the injury report as spring begins. He'll likely play some but not be at full strength until fall. I haven't seen him play in a while but if he has maintained his former speed while bulking up like he has, he could be quite a weapon. It's exciting to see that Tech now has this many options at the position and guys with different builds and strengths.

I don't expect a great amount of contribution at this time from the walk-ons but it must be noted that there is come upside in guys like Jamal Paige and Robert Godhigh out of the walk-on program.

The newest twist at the position is that B.J. Bostic (5-11, 163) is said to be starting off there this spring. I profiled him earlier in the defensive backs report but it's been learned that offense is now his likely destination. The depth at corner is super and BJ always claimed that he committed to Tech as an athlete, willing to play wherever needed. Though he'll need to pad his thin frame, you have to wonder if Bostic has the tools to be that signature A-back I wrote about above in the future. As a reminder, this quote was pulled from Chad Simmons' scouting report on Bostic, "He may excel the most on the offensive side of the ball because he is so elusive with the ball in his hands. He changes direction well in the open field and he is a weapon from anywhere on the field." While the B-back position in spring seems a little disjointed with injuries, position changes and qualification issues, the A-back position is full of depth and promise. It will be one of the more exciting positions to follow in spring. It's no wonder there was a high comfort level to moving Allen from AB to BB.

Georgia Tech Signed

Charles Perkins

Height: 6-1
Weight: 212
Home Town (High School): Suwanee, GA (Collins Hill HS)
Other offers included: Wisconsin, Wake Forest, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Central Florida
Lead GT Recruiting Coach: Jeff Monken
Scout.com Stars: ***
Scout.com State Ranking (Regardless of Position): 40
Scout.com National Ranking by Position: 39 (RB)
Scout.com National Ranking (Regardless of Position): NR
Scout.com Southeast Ranking (Regardless of Position): NR

The number 21 has been good for Georgia Tech. Most recently the number was worn by Calvin Johnson and Jonathan Dwyer. Now freshly enrolled Charles Perkins has decided he's going to put on those big shoes and see how they work for him. Perkins is just what this class needed, a long term heir to Dwyer. Charles is a super prospect who is only under the radar in the larger recruiting world because he committed so early to Tech. He was the first commit in the class, committing in January of 2009, well before the class prior to his even inked their letters of intent. For his talent, loyalty and ability to help draw in a tightly knit group of other highly talented guys to follow him to Tech, he's worthy of giving the ole 21 jersey a try.

When asked by Dale McDuffie why he committed to Tech when he did, Charles told him, "Well, I've been to Georgia Tech several times in the past and they have been recruiting me since my sophomore year. I got a chance to meet Coach Johnson several times and really bonded well with him. He talked with me and told me how much he wanted me at Georgia Tech. Getting to know Coach Johnson really helped me with my decision. That was a huge part in my decision but I think another factor was after my parents had a chance to talk with Coach Johnson and they saw how great of a coach he is and a great person too, it really just sealed the deal for me."

There was no drama in Perkins' recruitment and his production on the field as a senior speaks for itself. Following the end of the season, Charles told Dale, "I had over 1,700 yards rushing and 23 touchdowns. I also had over 300 yards receiving out of the backfield too. It was a good season."

Luckily Tech fans don't have to wait long to see him play. With the team in need of some help at B-back his early enrollment couldn't have been timed any better. I'd not be surprised to see him contribute as a true freshman and to be the long-term answer at the position.

Scouting Report:

Scott Kennedy (excerpt):

I see him fitting into the Fullback (B-Back) role for Georgia Tech. He's not a blazer, but he's blazing to full speed. On a few runs I counted the steps out of the backfield it took him to get to full speed, and he was usually there in 3 strides.

He's not going to out run a lot of angles, but he's going to accelerate through a lot of holes and make people turn to catch him if they can. He doesn't have a lot of shake, but he's subtle in his shiftiness, in that he'll feint to get a guy off balance, then break the tackle. He's strong as can be and uses his stiff arm well.

He instinctively protects the ball extremely well; he doesn't strike me as a guy that's ever going to fumble much. He's solid in all phases of the game, and he's exceptional in his acceleration.

For the full analysis from Scott see his story from April 2, 2009:
Georgia Tech commitment Charles Perkins

B.J. Bostic

Height: 5-11
Weight: 163
Home Town (High School): Louisville, GA (Jefferson County)
Other offers included: Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt
Lead GT Recruiting Coach: Charles Kelly
Scout.com Stars: ***
Scout.com State Ranking (Regardless of Position): 46
Scout.com National Ranking by Position: 91 (CB)
Scout.com National Ranking (Regardless of Position): NR

Bostic was already featured in this series under the defensive backs report. It was said following signing day that he'd start off there but things have changed and he'll now be an A-back. Bostic is an electric player and will also be on the field this spring. Landing Bostic was a huge recruiting victory and his talents will be put to use in one of the most exciting offenses in the country. This should be a great long-term match here though I anticipate a redshirt year for B.J. to add muscle to his frame in the first year on campus.

Deon Hill

Height: 6-0
Weight: 205
Home Town (High School): Phenix City, AL (Central HS)
Other offers included: Tulane
Lead GT Recruiting Coach: Charles Kelly
Scout.com Stars: **
Scout.com State Ranking (Regardless of Position): NR
Scout.com National Ranking by Position: NR
Scout.com National Ranking (Regardless of Position): NR
Scout.com Southeast Ranking (Regardless of Position): NR

Deon Hill comes to Tech with no hype and no huge list of offers of which to speak. But he was not a last minute reach as some may mistakenly believe. He was at junior day last year where many highly sought after players attend. Plus Tech coaches found out about him last year when recruiting Orwin Smith, his former teammate at Central High. Hill is well put-together and is a determined runner. His youtube film below speaks for itself.

I'm delighted Tech finally found room to take a commitment from Deon later in the process. I think other teams will find they missed out on a very good prospect here. Though Tech is not hurting for numbers at the A-back position, Hill was worth taking a chance on. He's built such that he could play any of the back positions. But his ability to catch the ball should probably keep him at AB for the foreseeable future. Smith rushed for 1,587 yards as a senior and closed out 18 touchdowns. He was also selected to the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic Game.

When asked by Dale McDuffie how he felt about eventually competing with his former teammate Orwin Smith, Hill answered, "I hope we'll get to play at the same time." If that happens expect to see Tech coaches sitting in the stands for many more Central High games in the near future.

Deon Hill – courtesy of Youtube.com

Scouting Report:

Andrew Bone – Scout.com Recruiting Analyst:

Deon Hill is a strong, physical running back with great vision. He doesn't have home-run speed, but makes up for it with his tough running style and quickness. He is great at breaking tackles and can catch the ball extremely well out of the backfield.

Tony Zenon

Height: 5-8
Weight: 174
Home Town (High School) Albany, GA (Deerfield-Windsor School)
Other offers included: Central Michigan, UAB, Georgia Southern, Murray State, and Marshall
Lead GT Recruiting Coach: Todd Spencer
Scout.com Stars: **
Scout.com State Ranking (Regardless of Position): NR
Scout.com National Ranking by Position: NR
Scout.com National Ranking (Regardless of Position): NR
Scout.com Southeast Ranking (Regardless of Position): NR

Tony Zenon is going to have some work to do in order to impress some fans who questioned this offer. Tony was a late grab without any major offers to speak of but he was a vocal Tech lean for quite sometime and already loves the school and program. Zenon is more in the Wright and Peeples mold of back; smaller but very fast. He was brought along slowly in the recruiting process and it looked like his chance to be a Yellow Jacket ended when Hill was offered and committed.

Tony was given a late official visit and that's when the offer was finally extended. Zenon told Dale, "Like I told you before it has been a dream of mine to play for Georgia Tech but the biggest reason I committed on Saturday afternoon is that my parents loved the visit and the fact they loved the Georgia Tech visit and school as a whole was a big reason I decided as well."

On a personal note, I was asked by a relative in Albany if I knew of this kid from church that was going to play ball for Tech. Not immediately making the connection, I asked who she was talking about, and when she said Tony, I assured her that I had heard of him. He definitely received a great recommendation from the relative as a person. Tech fans hope he has the skills on the field to match.

Another similarity to Marcus Wright is that Zenon put up some staggering stats in high school. In his senior year along he averaged 9.28 YPC gaining 2,264 yards and rushing for 27 touchdowns. He had 65 career high school touchdowns, so he knows how to find pay dirt. If you want to see a handful of them, check out his video below.

Tony Zenon – courtesy of Youtube.com

The one who got away

Michael Dyer (Auburn)

Okay, Tech never really had much of a chance here for the nation's #2 back. Jared Kimmel interviewed Dyer following Tech's first spring practice last year. Dyer seemed impressed by Coach Johnson's program. "I got to talk with the head coach (Paul Johnson) and the running backs coach (Jeff Monken)," said Dyer. "I enjoyed them. We had good conversation. Practice was pretty good. They work hard there. The coaches got after them pretty good, it was the first day." He gave a good hint in that same article that Auburn could be the eventual destination, though it would have been nice to follow up a Dwyer with a Dyer.

The other two prominent players offered by Tech this year were Mack Brown (Florida) & Corey Grant (Alabama). Tech got to see Mack several times; he visited on occasion including for the Scout.com combine that was at Tech. "I might go to Georgia Tech sometime next week," Brown told Jared Kimmel after the combine. "I visited games there last season. I talk to all their coaches, Coach BJ (Brian Jean-Mary), and Coach [Paul] Johnson. We have a good relationship." He had a better relationship with Florida as it turns out. I don't think Tech coaches or fans invested much emotion in following Grant's path. It was never likely he was going to be pulled out of his home state of Alabama.

Delino DeShields & Jon Lee (Air Force) were given consideration along the way as well but didn't receiver offers.

Final Analysis

Tech is still looking for a good mix of smaller, fast A-backs and bigger, more powerful types. The good thing about the bigger backs is that they can be B-backs down the road too if needed. I'm not sure if Tech has yet landed that signature player that will become the future model for all A-backs just yet. Bostic has some of that upside, but time will only tell. The good part is that Tech fans will get to see the two most highly touted backs in the class starting on Monday. Perkins should get right into the mix at BB and seems physically ready for it. The depth at AB is very nice right now so the opportunities maybe be further down the road for Bostic though if he's as electric as some say, he may be tough to ignore.

Hill and Zenon are the poor man's version of the Perkins and Bostic. But sometimes those players go on to be more productive than the one carrying all of the hype. I think of Keyaron Fox versus Hobie Holiday or Dominique Reese versus Laurence Marius, as examples. But with 45 senior rushing touchdowns between the two of them, I'd think twice before selling Hill and Zenon short.


GoJackets.com Top Stories