The competition at the backup B-back spot will be at least a three-way battle when Georgia Tech begins preseason training at the end of July.
Coach Paul Johnson said Tuesday that freshman C.J. Leggett will start out at B-back, where Matt Connors and Donovan Wilson will also vie to play behind Zach Laskey. The spot is open with Travis Custis being declared academically ineligible and transferring to Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College. Connors is a senior who has 24 career carries for 165 yards and has been a productive player on special teams. He is from Marist, the same school that produced guard Nick Brigham, former B-back Preston Lyons and a number of other former Jackets.
“He’s a hard runner,” said Johnson of Connors, speaking at the Pigskin Preview event at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in Macon.. “I don’t know that he’ll be the No. 2., but if he is, I feel good about it.”
Wilson, a freshman from Dublin, Ohio, moved to B-back for spring practice.
“He’s a hard worker,” Johnson said. “He’s going to have every opportunity in fall camp to put himself up there at No. 2. So we’ll see if he can get it done.”
Leggett, who ran for 1,784 yards on 280 carries for North Gwinnett High, committed to Tech after helping his team reach the Class 6A championship game.
The position has grown in importance over the last three years. Where Jonathan Dwyer and Anthony Allen logged the heavy majority of playing time as starting B-backs 2008-2010, playing time and carries have been more divided between three-year starter David Sims and his backups, Lyons in 2011 and Laskey the past two seasons.
In 2011, Sims had 135 carries to Lyons’ 57. It was 135/133 in 2012 (Sims missed two games with injury and was injured for much of the season) and 161/84 last season. It isn’t a certainty that Laskey will split the load – Johnson said that he probably had the best spring practice of any player on the team – but it would hardly be a surprise. Johnson lamented the loss of Custis, saying “I thought Travis was a talented guy, but it happens,” but also professed confidence in the running game.
Tech averaged 5.07 yards per carry last season against FBS competition, its lowest average in Johnson’s six seasons. (Interestingly, the second-lowest average was 2009, when the Jackets won the ACC title.)
“I think that when you embrace it, it’s a little easier to do it,” he said. “We ran the ball OK last year. I just think we’ll be a better running team this year.”
I’ll have a couple more posts from Johnson’s comments in Macon in the next few days. Check back.