Georgia Tech spring practice preview: A-backs

Tech running back Qua Searcy (1) runs away from Alcorn State Braves defensive back LaShaun Ealey (18) in the first half of the season opener. (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

A-back Qua Searcy had 13 carries for 76 yards and a touchdown in three games last season before suffering an ankle injury in the Notre Dame game. (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

A look at Georgia Tech’s position groups going into spring practice, which begins March 28.

A-backs

Returning: Redshirt freshman Nate Cottrell, junior J.J. Green, redshirt freshman Omahri Jarrett, sophomore Mikell Lands-Davis, senior Lynn Griffin, sophomore Clinton Lynch, sophomore TaQuon Marshall, sophomore Qua Searcy, senior Isiah Willis

Lost: Broderick Snoddy

Incoming: Xavier Gantt

Overview

Tech will bring back 89 percent of A-back touches (carries and receptions), losing only Snoddy’s 21 combined rushing attempts and receptions. It’s a bit different than the situation from the 2015 season, when Snoddy and Willis were the sole A-back returnees who had touched the ball in 2014 and constituted 15 percent of all A-back carries and receptions.

The slew of injuries suffered in the group last season meant more players than usual received snaps and experience. Lands-Davis, Griffin, Lynch, Marshall, Searcy and Willis – six players – all received meaningful snaps last season, not to mention walk-on Austin McClellan, who also returns. Typically, the rotation might be three or four players. Add in two more who will push in the spring – Green, who sat out 2015 after transferring from Georgia, and Jarrett, who redshirted last season. And then there’s two more – Cottrell, out last year after a knee injury suffered in camp, and Gantt, a 2016 signee – who would seem capable of making the rotation when they join in the fall.

Former quarterback Tim Byerly was witness to the group’s development over the season and potential going forward.

“I’m sure there were some games we may have stayed the same or gotten a little bit worse, but the more practices and games you get these young guys in, the more it’s going to pay for their sophomore, junior and senior years,” he said.

Lynch proved himself in his first season, playing in all 12 games, starting in six and coming through with several big plays in the disappointing 3-9 season. His eight touchdowns (five rushing, three receiving) tied B-back Patrick Skov for the team high, and he only required 59 touches to do it. (Skov scored eight times in 93 rushes and three receptions.)

Along with Willis, he goes into the spring as the most experienced A-back on the depth chart, unusual territory for a rising sophomore.

He’ll be challenged by a group full of ability and some experience. Coach Paul Johnson eagerly anticipates what should be heavy competition this spring at the position.

“He’s going to be fighting, too,” Johnson said of Lynch. “We really don’t have a set depth, because you’ve got Lynn, Qua Searcy, who was a starter, Mikell played a lot. You’ve got a bunch of guys who have played. It’s going to be good competition.”

Johnson likes the potential and playmaking ability that Griffin showed last season after moving from defensive back. Searcy is back from an ankle injury; he looked like he could become a dangerous player in the three games he played. Jarrett “might be the fastest one of all of them,” Johnson said.

“Omahri’s a guy that can make you miss, and J.J.’s one of those guys, too,” Byerly said. “I think there’ll be a great group of A-backs.”

Cottrell, rehabilitating from a knee injury suffered last August, will not be available in the spring.

Quotable

“They’ll sort themselves out. You’ve still got Nathan Cottrell, who’s not going to be out in the spring. That’s why I’m saying, a lot of the guys, who, some of them played last year, may not be playing this year. Some of those freshmen may get redshirted if everybody stays healthy. … And we still don’t have very many seniors, either. They’re all young kids.” – Johnson

Position preview: B-backs

 


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