For the first time under Head Coach Paul Johnson’s tenure at Tech, there is not a player who has been named as the clear-cut leader at B-back. After the departures of former standouts Jonathan Dwyer and Anthony Allen, the Jackets may look to earn their yardage at the B-back position by committee, and not with one standout.
Generally in Johnson’s spread-option offense, the start at the B-back position will earn over 1,000 rushing yards during a season with four strong candidates to carry to weight at the position this year, the coaching staff may take a strong look at splitting carries evenly in order to leave players fresh throughout the game and have the players playing their best.
Going into fall camp, redshirt senior Preston Lyons has been named the starter at B-back, with redshirt freshman Charles Perkins being named his back up. Lyons came to Tech as a transfer from Colgate, and was immediately named the back up to Dwyer and Anthony Allen for each of his first two seasons. Lyons has been praised for his ability to block well, and his surprising athleticism.
“Preston is a better runner than people give him credit for, he is actually one of the better athletes on the team. If you go by 40-time, vertical jump and all that stuff, he’s actually a really good athlete. People look at him and don’t give him enough credit,” Johnson said.
However, Lyons hasn’t locked his starting position as redshirt sophomore David Sims and redshirt junior Richard Watson are making a tough push to earn some major playing time along with Perkins. All four players are impressing the coaches during summer camp.
Perkins was the first commitment for the 2010 recruiting class and is expected to be a future starter for the team. Sims is a developmental player who began his Tech career as a quarterback. However, Sims’ athleticism and size allowed him to move to a more natural B-back position. Watson has primarily played special teams in his career, and backed up Dwyer and Allen in his first two seasons playing.
With so much depth at the B-back position, it appears as though the carries will be spread fairly evenly, as all of the players have shown they have the ability to move the ball. Each player has his strengths, whether it be blocking or moving between the tackles, and that could decide when each player gets to see the field.
Lyons has been praised for his movement between the tackles, along with his blocking, but lacks the speed some of his backups have. Perkins and Sims have raw talent that needs to be shaped, but both are new at the position and could see significant improvement as the season progresses. Both have been praised during the offseason for their burst off the line of scrimmage, but need improvement on their blocking.
The competition at the position has ignited a fire behind these players and caused each to continue to improve throughout the offseason.
“Every day you have to come out and play your best or someone is going to take your spot. When you have three or four guys competing like that, it definitely brings out the best in you,” Lyons said.
After fall camp has ended, Johnson, along with the other coaches, will release a depth chart, listing stats at each position and his backups, the week of Tech’s home opener against Western Carolina. Regardless of who starts at B-back that game, fans should expect to see multiple players getting important touches depending on the situation in the game. Even if the 2011 season does not produce a 1,000 yard B-back, expect it to be one of the strongest positions on the team.