Posted: 1:17 pm Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

Tech’s backup B-back competition crowded 

By Ken Sugiura

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.

24 comments
Jmonty
Jmonty

I can't wait for that first kickoff and that first tailgate.  I made some really good friends last year and I foresee a strong friendship that will last many years.  Go Jackets!! 

POAD2014
POAD2014

Just win baby. Laskey has always played very well. he can bust the line for a long run. He might not have lightening speed but he can get free.

BigTimeTECHFan
BigTimeTECHFan

Is Justin Byan available next year or does he sit out a year after transfer?

6'5" 240 lbs is big for BBack, but they say he can fly..

YesIamapirate
YesIamapirate


"In an exclusive interview Wednesday evening with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Matthews admitted to having a loud and distracting conversation with a fellow UGA athlete on the final day of Maymester classes Tuesday, but vehemently denied having disrespected Dr. Ronald Bogue, the professor of his Children’s Literature course. Matthews says he was asked to leave the class of around 30 students but did not."


You can't make this stuff up!

LongBeachJacket
LongBeachJacket

Line should be OK...if they stay healthy.  D should continue to improve.  Laskey is a proven commodity.  Agree with the commenter that blocking from the B-Back spot is also key.  Would like to see Laskey get about 60% of the snaps. Split the other 40% between Connors and Wilson.  Redshirt Leggett.  Let him get ahead academically and put on about 15 pounds of muscle....then he should be a "beast" at 220 lbs in 2015....

JonesboroJacket
JonesboroJacket

If the line does not block, it really doesn't matter too much who is carrying the rock.  Too many times, I saw the linemen down field, not having touched a single defender.  You actually have to touch someone not dive at their feet but engage them.  Those seconds you can delay them opens up our offense tremendously.  Vad showed his indecision often.... run the play regardless then, just don't hesitate.  Basically, if we mix it up and get the big guys tired on the other side of the line, we can be much more successful.  Now for the defense...  we need bigger guys up front, please...


Yellerbug
Yellerbug

Laskey's lack of playing time last year wasn't because of his running. He found the crease better than Sims did. Laskey doesn't block as well as he should and CPJ emphasizes blocking and rewards those who will stick their grill into an opponent's chest and not just dive at their feet.  He'll do a good job running the rock for us.  I think we'll see shorter games this season as GT will have some lengthy death march drives.  We will run the ball 60 times a game if not more and without any break away runners, it will be a lot of 4 yards at a time. The key is the O-line---if they get the job done, then we'll be fine.  It'd be good to red-shirt Leggett, but we may not be able to.

bigmacondawg
bigmacondawg

That offense keeps defensive coordinators awake at night, you know?  Tough stuff!

Gr8_2B_aFuzzyB
Gr8_2B_aFuzzyB

It seems to me that CPJ does reward loyalty to some extent. I think Connors will see his fair share of carries.

@ken that 2009 season, we had a guy named BayBay to compensate for the relatively low B back numbers. He was the real key to that team's success in my opinion. Not taking anything away from Josh or Dwyer, I just think Thomas was the most valuable.

DawgwithFleas
DawgwithFleas

@ Chop95....Laskey will probably get around 230-250 carries this year. His numbers are actually better than Allen's going into this year. Wilson and Leggett hasn't even played a down yet so their playing time will be mop up duty when no pressure will be on them.  Connors will be the most important  player to back up Laskey and give him a rest.  We just have to wait and see if this holds true at the end of this year.  

GTBob
GTBob

That 5.07 yards per carry stat was pretty heavily influenced by Vad Lee's rushing numbers which were significantly worse than any QB CPJ has ever had. The B-Backs actually had numbers pretty similar to every other season. This year will be a challenge though. Laskey will do fine. I don't think anyone is all that worried about him. Somebody needs to step up and be a quality backup though.

juvenal
juvenal

need a crowd since we lost  a stud.......

ChopChamps95
ChopChamps95

I wouldn't hold my breath on Laskey getting the majority of the snaps.  He's good, but he doesn't have the Jon Dwyer/Anthony Allen kind of talent to get the majority of the BB reps this season.  Plus, its been proven that without a dominant back, this unit runs better splitting the load as they've done over the last couple of season.  Custis' loss hurts but they can manage as Wilson and Legget should provide very solid depth.

ConfederateFlagBurner
ConfederateFlagBurner

I figured Leggett would start out at Bback now, it fits him better. 
Donovan will end up #2, Custis being ineligible really hurt. 

bigmacondawg
bigmacondawg

@YesIamapirate

Two weeks and no one will even remember this story.

Almost a decade and a half of complete and total domination on the gridiron; that is referred to as a "rivalry", which in fact is a high school football program playing a college football powerhouse.

THAT is what will be remembered and talked about.

Coloradojacket
Coloradojacket

@Yellerbug  I would think our quarterback and possibly Snoddy just might be break away runners.  I would agree that we will go back to CPJ football.

GTfan2013
GTfan2013

Hey @ChopChamps95,

I've got a question for you. Who do you think has better speed, Anthony Allen or Zack Laskey?  Because I have data that says Zack Laskey is actually faster.  Zack Laskey has proven to be able to run with a solid combination of balance, power and speed.  I wouldn't be surprised if Laskey breaks 1,300 yards this year (100 yards per game), because we don't have a back up that CPJ trusts.

GGee
GGee

Powerhouse? Ummm I didnt remember Tech playing Alabama recently? Maybe I was in a coma.

Jmonty
Jmonty

@bigmacondawg You tend to forget these are SCHOOLS.  You loose sight of that.  It's about shool pride, it's about traditions, it's about people.  I honestly get along with MANY UGA fans.  Yes, we pick at each other, but we respect each other.  It's a shame that some people loose sight of that. 

YesIamapirate
YesIamapirate

@bigmacondawg 


It's a shame.


He was probably doing well in his "Children's Literature" class, too. Is that a Senior level course?



GGee
GGee

Laskey IS good enough. He may not be Dwyer, but honestly thatll be hard to replicate. He will be better than Sims no doubt in my mind. Maybe as good or better than AA. The backups have a year to get it down pat watching Laskey do his thing. The next season may be tough sledding unless one of the backups shows promise.

ToeMeetsLeather
ToeMeetsLeather

I think so. My question would be "how in the world will they recover his crayons and coloring books before he leaves town?".

juvenal
juvenal

bm part apropos....2OT's better than OSU does vs. OU....