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A Back Position - Post Spring Review

  • Prior to spring practice, here were my thoughts about the A Back position:

    We can go 13 deep at the A-Back position. Allowing that we have 2 starting A-Backs that means we have a depth chart that goes 6 deep with one to grow on. Speaking of growing, one thing that catches your eye is the size of our A-Backs. Only 3 of them are 6 foot tall and only one of them currently goes over 200 lbs. I’m not sure if that profile is by design or just by circumstance, but it seems we have a whole bunch of smaller body type players pigeon holed into the A-Back position.

    When you look at the 13 you can see that 4 of them are walk ons and 2 of them are incoming freshmen who will mostly likely redshirt, so that cuts that number down to 7 or so who have a somewhat better shot of being in the mix for 2011. Even so that means we can go 3 deep at the position without breaking a sweat.

    When I looked at this group my analysis led me to the conclusion that while we have several good players at the position, we do not have one great player. Maybe this will be the year to see some greatness emerge from our A-Back group.

    Here is how I would rank order the group. This is just my opinion:

    Orwin Smith – 6’ 206 lb. Junior – showed last year that he has some playmaking potential and actually made quite a few. He also had some fumbles that really hurt the team at crucial times last year. My feeling is that Orwin will only get better and will be one of our best players next year.

    Roddy Jones – 5’10” 194 lb. Senior – probably one of our best perimeter blockers, Roddy showed he could stick his foot in the ground and bust up field for a few more crucial yards as opposed to just washing out of bounds with the flow of the tide of defenders pursuing him. He too had some critical fumbles last year that we just have to eliminate if we are going to get better. We need some strong leadership from Roddy this year.

    Embry Peeples – 5’10” 173 lb. Senior – Embry shows flashes but has had difficulty sustaining success on the field. Some believe him to be one of our better receivers out of the backfield. I’m sure he will continue to get a lot of work this coming season.

    Jason Bostic – 5’10” 165 lb. Sophomore – I put Jason here because of some uncertainty around Marcus Wright due to missed time last year. Bostic actually got in on a few plays and showed some burst. He also ran back some kicks. I think Jason will have to put on some serious weight and really work on his blocking skills if he wants to move up the charts at this position.

    Marcus Wright – 5’ 7” 173 lb. Senior – Marcus and Embry are kind of interchangeable in my way of thinking about the A Back position. He was hurt in a motor scooter accident last year and missed the second half of the season. I’m not sure if he would qualify for a medical redshirt or not; or even if he would have an interest in applying for one. Marcus was a pretty good blocker and good ball carrier so his return will certainly add strength to the position.

    Robert Godhigh – 5’7” 181 lb. redshirt Sophomore – a really strong young man who walked on a few years back. I think he has some legit talent and has just been waiting on an opportunity to play. He may be playing some special teams but I am not 100% sure on that.

    Jamal Paige – 5’8” 182 lb. redshirt Junior – Jamal gets some reps in practice and looks pretty good when he is in there. Again I think he has some talent but not enough to clearly separate him from the pack.

    Deon Hill – 6’ 195 lb. redshirt Freshman – there is a little bit of buzz about Deon going round indicating he might be a real good one based on his showing on the scout team last year. He certainly looks the part and he comes from the same school that brought us Orwin Smith. I look for Deon to get some snaps this coming season. I would move him up higher on my list but I want to see him earn it first.

    Tony Zenon – 5’8” 160 lb. redshirt Freshman – another guy that is getting some favorable press of his performance on the practice squad last season. He is built like a Mack truck and if can put on just a bit more weight, I think he will be an equivalent talent to Marcus Wright or Embry Peeples.

    Deshon Scott – 5’10” 189 lb. redshirt Sophomore – I really don’t anything about Deshon. He is a walkon and for now is slotted at this position.

    Sam McNearney – 5’6” 160 lb. redshirt freshman – same as Deshon Scott.

    Broderick Snoddy – 5’9” 190 lb. true freshman – unless Broderick comes in and just blows everybody away, he will most likely take a redshirt in 2011. He seems to be cut from the same mold as 90% of our other A-Backs so I think it will get down to how bad does he want it and just how good is he.

    Chris Milton – 6’ 175 lb. true freshman – as you can see Chris could actually become one of our bigger A-Backs. He has some versatility and even though he will get his first look at this position, he certainly has potential to play many other spots on the team. Again, I would foresee a likely redshirt year for Chris in 2011.

    So there you have it, a quick look at the 13 guys currently slotted to compete for the A-Back position next season. I hope at least one or two will emerge to be real playmakers and help us break some explosion plays on offense. I think you will see a continued emphasis on ball handling, blocking and hard running from our coaching staff to get this group performing up to expectations.

    For the long haul, I wonder if Coach Johnson will try to recruit bigger players for the A-Back position. It just seems with the blocking requirements and the lack of a standout performer at this position in his program to date, that he might reassess the type of back he goes after to play this position going forward. I would be interested to hear my fellow Tech fans thoughts on this question.

    Post spring view:

    Well not much changed as a result of spring practice. Walk on Deshon Scott is no longer on the roster. Orwin and Roddy still look to be the starters. Embry, Marcus and BJ got some reps but really did not move the needle too much. Deon Hill and Tony Z got a pretty good bit of work but again they did not clearly distinguish themselves as guys that could take it to the house with any touch of the ball. I would move them up past Godhigh and Paige and at par with Wright and Bostic.

    The one encouraging thing I saw was the increased use of the A Backs in the passing game. I noticed they were used often in crossing patterns and were usually wide open even thought the passing to them usually made them stop and make a circus catch to gain any yardage. I think you can see that is a play that has a lot of potential if we can get worked into our repertoire and go to it with some degree of frequency.

    Again, we just have too many bodies at this position. Nine is plenty and 12 is clearly overkill. I hope we shift our recruiting focus to offensive and defensive linemen and back off the A back types going forward.

    Go Jackets!

  • once again, thanks for all your info, jerry!

    i'm super stoked about orwin. yeah, he had some costly fumbles last season but he was green. all part of the learning curve. IMHO, he's poised for a breakout season.

    we pretty much know roddy's potential. he's our best blocking back from previous seasons. i wanna see him really step it up in this final stanza--especially as an offensive leader.

    i'm interested in seeing bostic's growth this season as well. yeah, he might be a wee bit undersized, but he's got some burners and shiftiness. great qualities for an AB.

    for some reason i have a feeling by the end of the season we'll see deon hill show some flashes. he's a budding talent that's gonna be a solid AB once he gets some reps and confidence. definitely excited about his future.

    just as you, i suspect the true freshmen will be redshirted.

    This post has been edited 3 times, most recently by stonedwall 3 years ago

  • These postion write-ups are the best

  • too many dropped passes by Wright and Peebles over the years

  • Thanks JJ.

    I think your comment about the size of these guys is one of the most cogent comments you have ever made here.I said when PJ came in that we should be able to get bigger and better Abacks than Navy and that (with a real passer at QB and bigger OLs) will make us unstoppable.
    well, 4 yrs in and we are getting SMALLER not bigger.Remember when we had dwyer and Ant at A back(225+)? there is not ONE even 210 lb+ Aback recruited in the last 3 yrs plus the AVERAGE size overall is small.Remember size makes a big difference in blocking esp in PASS blocking.I also haven't seen the extreme speed replacing the size at this poition either that you might expect.
    it might be that guys like Snoddy may get it done but so far without a strong OL we have to depend on jet speed or tackle-busting size to be be really sucessful.
    Not bad but not what I thought we could recruit into a top RUNNING offense.

  • alaguy said... (original post)

    Thanks JJ.

    I think your comment about the size of these guys is one of the most cogent comments you have ever made here.I said when PJ came in that we should be able to get bigger and better Abacks than Navy and that (with a real passer at QB and bigger OLs) will make us unstoppable. well, 4 yrs in and we are getting SMALLER not bigger.Remember when we had dwyer and Ant at A back(225+)? there is not ONE even 210 lb+ Aback recruited in the last 3 yrs plus the AVERAGE size overall is small.Remember size makes a big difference in blocking esp in PASS blocking.I also haven't seen the extreme speed replacing the size at this poition either that you might expect. it might be that guys like Snoddy may get it done but so far without a strong OL we have to depend on jet speed or tackle-busting size to be be really sucessful. Not bad but not what I thought we could recruit into a top RUNNING offense.

    Psssst, hey buddy, keep this under your hat. We're not recruiting well.

  • of all the things we can harp on about this O, A-back size is the least of the culprits in our offensive woes, IMO. i understand the sentiment of wanting bigger backs. but, we haven't exactly slow rolled on the O because of the size of our ABs. now the fumbles by ABs last year, yes. but, not their lack of size.

    it would be wonderful to recruit 6'1", 220 ABs. but, a well executed/timed cut block from a 180 lbs AB can be just as effective as one thrown by someone at 220. and, remember, that's the style of blocks they're asked to execute in this offense on most plays.

  • alaguy said... (original post)

    Thanks JJ.

    I think your comment about the size of these guys is one of the most cogent comments you have ever made here.I said when PJ came in that we should be able to get bigger and better Abacks than Navy and that (with a real passer at QB and bigger OLs) will make us unstoppable. well, 4 yrs in and we are getting SMALLER not bigger.Remember when we had dwyer and Ant at A back(225+)? there is not ONE even 210 lb+ Aback recruited in the last 3 yrs plus the AVERAGE size overall is small.Remember size makes a big difference in blocking esp in PASS blocking.I also haven't seen the extreme speed replacing the size at this poition either that you might expect. it might be that guys like Snoddy may get it done but so far without a strong OL we have to depend on jet speed or tackle-busting size to be be really sucessful. Not bad but not what I thought we could recruit into a top RUNNING offense.

    2011: Broderick Snoddy is already 195lbs. So, he's already perfect RB size (about the size of a PJ Daniels coming in). He'll probably end up playing closer to 210lbs

    2010: Deon Hill was 195lbs. He's already 205lbs as a freshman. He'll play at at least 210lbs.

    2009: Orwin Smith was 195lbs. He's 202lbs now.

    2012: Our primary A-Back target right now is Shadrach Thornton who's already 200lbs. He could also end up at B-Back.

    For comparison purposes PJ Daniels was 210, Tashard Choice was 210, and Tony Hollings was 205 all as seniors. They all came in around 190-195.

  • alaguy said... (original post)

    Thanks JJ.

    I think your comment about the size of these guys is one of the most cogent comments you have ever made here.I said when PJ came in that we should be able to get bigger and better Abacks than Navy and that (with a real passer at QB and bigger OLs) will make us unstoppable.
    well, 4 yrs in and we are getting SMALLER not bigger.Remember when we had dwyer and Ant at A back(225+)? there is not ONE even 210 lb+ Aback recruited in the last 3 yrs plus the AVERAGE size overall is small.Remember size makes a big difference in blocking esp in PASS blocking.I also haven't seen the extreme speed replacing the size at this poition either that you might expect.
    it might be that guys like Snoddy may get it done but so far without a strong OL we have to depend on jet speed or tackle-busting size to be be really sucessful.
    Not bad but not what I thought we could recruit into a top RUNNING offense.

    Dwyer never played more than a few snaps at a back.

  • phatman30318 said... (original post)

    Dwyer never played more than a few snaps at a back.

    and at 220 he was still faster than ANY of our A backs now, hmmm

  • stonedwall said... (original post)

    of all the things we can harp on about this O, A-back size is the least of the culprits in our offensive woes, IMO. i understand the sentiment of wanting bigger backs. but, we haven't exactly slow rolled on the O because of the size of our ABs. now the fumbles by ABs last year, yes. but, not their lack of size.

    it would be wonderful to recruit 6'1", 220 ABs. but, a well executed/timed cut block from a 180 lbs AB can be just as effective as one thrown by someone at 220. and, remember, that's the style of blocks they're asked to execute in this offense on most plays.

    er, we are talking SPECIFICALLY about the Abacks-NOT the OFFense is general I do believe

  • Yukonwreck said... (original post)

    Psssst, hey buddy, keep this under your hat. We're not recruiting well.

    Yuk's is right that we aren't recruiting as well as we would have hoped, at least by the rating service rankings. But all it takes is winning. Look at Stanford below.

    Damn, the graph legend is screwed up. Gotta fix.

    This post has been edited 2 times, most recently by GaTech Navy Nuk 3 years ago

  • alaguy said... (original post)

    er, we are talking SPECIFICALLY about the Abacks-NOT the OFFense is general I do believe

    sounds good--so did i in my post.

    you're harping on AB size/weight. i posted my opinion that the least of our offensive worries is AB size/weight. i specifically mentioned ABs five times in my post, but if i wasn't clear i'll state it again--AB size/weight was NOT a reason we lost last year and it won't be why our offense sputters this season. it has never been a primary reason this O didn't move the ball.

    i'm gonna go out on a limb and suggest if/when we lose a game it won't be because orwin is 200 lbs or roddy is 5'10". i'm more worried about them holding onto the football, running decent routes, and making routine catches.

    This post was edited by stonedwall 3 years ago

  • stonedwall said... (original post)

    sounds good--so did i in my post.

    you're harping on AB size/weight. i posted my opinion that the least of our offensive worries is AB size/weight. i specifically mentioned ABs five times in my post, but if i wasn't clear i'll state it again--AB size/weight was NOT a reason we lost last year and it won't be why our offense sputters this season. it has never been a primary reason this O didn't move the ball.

    i'm gonna go out on a limb and suggest if/when we lose a game it won't be because orwin is 200 lbs or roddy is 5'10". i'm more worried about them holding onto the football, running decent routes, and making routine catches.

    Exactly right. At its core the triple option (and all football for that matter) is about blocking. The Wishbone, Veer, wildcat and the triple option philosophy is to create a "numbers up" situation on one side of the formation. Once that mismatch is created, then the offense should have two potential ball carriers against one defender. As Charles Wilson likes to say "option their best, and block the rest". The triple option breaks down--just like every other offensive scheme breaks down---when the defense wins the one-on-one blocking match-ups. But if the offense does an adequate job of blocking, and the qb options the unblocked defender correctly, then the AB theoretically gets the ball in space with a running lane of a few yards. The eventual length of the gain depends more on the AB speed, vision, cutting ability, downfield blocking and the closing speed of the defense's rotation, than it does on the size and tackle breaking ability of the runner. A 6-2, 225 guy with 4.5 speed would be great, but most of our guys ought to be potential 800 to 1000 yd rushers if we block and execute. If our qb and four AB's each rushed for even 600 yds and our BB's totaled 1200, that 4200 yards rushing right there, about 350 ypg. I think we have the backs on the two deep to do that right now. The question is do we have the blockers?

  • stonedwall said... (original post)

    sounds good--so did i in my post.

    you're harping on AB size/weight. i posted my opinion that the least of our offensive worries is AB size/weight. i specifically mentioned ABs five times in my post, but if i wasn't clear i'll state it again--AB size/weight was NOT a reason we lost last year and it won't be why our offense sputters this season. it has never been a primary reason this O didn't move the ball.

    i'm gonna go out on a limb and suggest if/when we lose a game it won't be because orwin is 200 lbs or roddy is 5'10". i'm more worried about them holding onto the football, running decent routes, and making routine catches.

    Blocking is VITAL-effects run and pass
    I know ALL about blocking as a small back,that is about all I did in hi school fball---
    I know a 180 lb Aback CAN block a 230 lb LB on a run play but a 210 lb Aback CAN do it better,
    also on a PASS the 210 Aback certainly is better for the straight up block on a 250 lb DE or LB than a smaller man, I know
    btw- a case could be made than a bigger back is stronger and will hold on to the ball better

    if small is not a problem, why aren't we getting ALL 160 lb track guys to play?they are REAL fast and lots of them
    you are right,it is not the MOST important problem but it is a real factor in OFF success

  • Old saying... "A good big guy is better than a good little guy"...

    Georgia Tech Football Talk at: http://GTSportsTalk.com

  • if our offense is clicking like a well-oiled machine, we won't see our ABs blocking D linemen and you won't see our ABs primarily blocking LBs--especially one-on-one--unless it's a busted play or they're picking up some tailing block.

    by design, our OL is supposed to get to the "second level", picking up LBs. and, yes, getting to that second level and properly executing blocks has been an issue for our line. if we're relying on our ABs to be the primary blockers of the DL or LBs, we're in trouble.

    i have a copy of CPJ's playbook from his southern days (basically, our playbook at tech), and on most plays ABs are positioned to block one of the safeties or corners. on specific QB keepers or plays designed to utilize the B-back, ABs will assist the OL with the LBs, safeties, or whoever else crashing down.

    go to youtube and watch an number of triple option plays from navy to high school teams and you'll notice ABs will be blocking a corner or safety 8 outta 10 times.

    i agree with YW that our two deep at AB is capable of accomplishing their jobs IF they play up to their potential.

    This post was edited by stonedwall 3 years ago

  • Jim Hart said... (original post)

    Old saying... "A good big guy is better than a good little guy"...

    i'm all for big guys if we can get 'em! but, we don't exactly have runts at AB in our predicted two deep. roughly 6' and 200 lbs ABs in our style of offense is quite adequate IF they block technically, have hands to catch, and speed to get around the corner.

  • Will these small A-Backs be able to go up against DBs and even LBs for passes? I would love to see a short passing game worked in, if we are able.

    If GT football doesn't win at least 8 games with a victory over UGA next year, we need to start considering the post-Paul Johnson era.

  • srschirm said... (original post)

    Will these small A-Backs be able to go up against DBs and even LBs for passes? I would love to see a short passing game worked in, if we are able.

    absolutely! our problem has been ABs with hands of stone who can't catch a cold. the "jump ball" style throws are to our WRs, for the most part. if our O is rolling as it can, passes to ABs should be a shock to the D and most likely result in a wide open AB who should be able to run for big yardage.

    i understand the theory that we can run for 6-8 yards so why bother with a short passing game. but, i'd like to see us utilize a QUICK short passing game where the QB takes a one step drop with a laser pass to receivers. it takes the D by surprise and it also doesn't require our OL to fend off the defense and create a pocket. of course, this requires a QB with an arm and accuracy and the receivers HAVE to catch the damn ball! i'm keeping my fingers crossed we can get that true, dual threat QB in our backfield.

  • maybe the short pass could be used (to keep the defense honest) as a replacement of the dive every other play that averages only 2 yards

  • stonedwall said... (original post)

    absolutely! our problem has been ABs with hands of stone who can't catch a cold. the "jump ball" style throws are to our WRs, for the most part. if our O is rolling as it can, passes to ABs should be a shock to the D and most likely result in a wide open AB who should be able to run for big yardage.

    i understand the theory that we can run for 6-8 yards so why bother with a short passing game. but, i'd like to see us utilize a QUICK short passing game where the QB takes a one step drop with a laser pass to receivers. it takes the D by surprise and it also doesn't require our OL to fend off the defense and create a pocket. of course, this requires a QB with an arm and accuracy and the receivers HAVE to catch the damn ball! i'm keeping my fingers crossed we can get that true, dual threat QB in our backfield.

    Which one of our quarterback throws the most catchable ball? From what I have seen, Tevin is not too bad, how is Days?

  • Yukonwreck said... (original post)

    Which one of our quarterback throws the most catchable ball? From what I have seen, Tevin is not too bad, how is Days?

    i couldn't honestly tell you who has the better ball. all i've really seen of days was about half the spring game. he's a competitor, but rough and the edges--definite work in progress with regards to his decision-making in this offense. his experience is only gonna come with reps, reps, and more reps.

    we had numerous catchable balls last season our receivers just flat out choked on. extremely disappointing, too. our ABs have gotta step up their receiving. they oughta be spending every minute possible this summer catching footballs!

  • I don't give a crap what size our A backs are as long as they can block.

    Things I'd like to see our A backs do better in order of importance (imo):

    1. Put your man on the ground
    2. Put your man on the ground
    3 Put your man on the ground
    4 Put your man on the ground
    5 Hold onto the ball
    6 Get your 7-25 yds when you get the pitch and the other A back has put his man on the ground
    7 Catch the decent to good throws when they come your way more consistently.

    To have third option in the triple the blocking has to be there.

  • alaguy said... (original post)

    Thanks JJ.

    I think your comment about the size of these guys is one of the most cogent comments you have ever made here.I said when PJ came in that we should be able to get bigger and better Abacks than Navy and that (with a real passer at QB and bigger OLs) will make us unstoppable. well, 4 yrs in and we are getting SMALLER not bigger.Remember when we had dwyer and Ant at A back(225+)? there is not ONE even 210 lb+ Aback recruited in the last 3 yrs plus the AVERAGE size overall is small.Remember size makes a big difference in blocking esp in PASS blocking.I also haven't seen the extreme speed replacing the size at this poition either that you might expect. it might be that guys like Snoddy may get it done but so far without a strong OL we have to depend on jet speed or tackle-busting size to be be really sucessful. Not bad but not what I thought we could recruit into a top RUNNING offense.

    This is almost always going to be the case. GT isn't appealing enough to attract quality RBs to come play AB. We get the smaller guys that couldn't cut it at tailback bust still have good speed. Orwin, Snoddy (short but thick) and D. Hill are a good start though. Remember AB is 2nd fiddle in this offense and a good RB out of HS with other options is not going to want to come run toss sweeps for 4 years if he has a shot at toting the rock at another decent school from the halfback position.

    I do feel like the real small guys, Wright and Peeples, aren't as fast as they should be. I keep hearing about Peeples' speed, but I just don't see it.

    This post was edited by HelluvaMGTmjr 3 years ago

  • HelluvaMGTmjr said... (original post)

    Remember AB is 2nd fiddle in this offense and a good RB out of HS with other options is not going to want to come run toss sweeps for 4 years if he has a shot at toting the rock at another decent school from the halfback position.

    this can be an opportunity, though, as well.

    i submit there are a lot of HS football teams who put their best athlete at QB and this kid's a player. yet, these 5'10" 175-190 lbs boys aren't going to be recruited as a prototypical college QB. so, you have an outstanding athlete with no true position in the college ranks that could fit right in with our AB position as they most likely have great vision, hands, speed, and you know they wanna shot to prove themselves.

    personally, i think this is a great selling point CPJ can offer a kid who's being overlooked.