April 18, 2015
By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word
Georgia Tech won’t play real football for more than four months and plenty will change between now and Sept. 3, when Alcorn State will visit Bobby Dodd Stadium, but a window was left open Friday through which to view the future and Marcus Allen fit the bill as most surprising sight.
In the annual spring game, the junior who converted just about a week ago from linebacker to B-back led all rushers with 77 yards on 14 carries.
The 6-foot-2, 225-pound fourth-year junior from Hilliard, Fla., ran with power, flashed some speed at times, caught two passes for 42 yards and, frankly, didn’t look like a newcomer eight to the game nor his position.
All of that is particularly noteworthy as the Jackets’ top three B-backs from last season — Synjyn Days, Zack Laskey and Matt Connors — will all graduate, and the leading candidate to fill that spot, redshirt freshman C.J. Leggett, tore a knee ligament in practice Wednesday and is likely to miss the season.
Add the fact that early enrollee Quaide Weimerskirch, another candidate, suffered a foot injury this spring that required surgery and the spotlight on B-back is white hot.
On yet another rainy night, Allen did not shrink from that light. Head coach Paul Johnson, was perhaps therefore all the less inclined to sound any sort of panic alarm.
“He ran hard, broke some tackles, made some plays in the passing game . . . caught the ball. It was good to see. He’s been there all of seven days,” Johnson said. “It was good for Marcus to get some things going. We’ll have three or four other guys there in the fall, and we’ll sort it out.”
Johnson said Leggett, “is probably out for the season.” Weimerskirch’s status is unclear and a couple incoming freshmen will get a look at B-back in the fall.
For now, Allen — who came to Tech as a B-back before switching to linebacker and then receiver — may be the leader in the clubhouse with third-year walk-on sophomore Ryan Braswell also at the position.
“It’s really been a big learning experience. I really hadn’t been playing football that long, and I didn’t really understand football terminology [upon arriving at Tech],” Allen said. “I feel a lot more comfortable now. I’ve learned a lot of football.
“I’m a lot more confident in what I’m doing, and I can just play instead of thinking. Being able to play without thinking of everything I have to do speeds up my game.”
Tech is so saddled with injuries this season that trying to draw conclusions from the spring game was all the more risky a proposition than usual.
The offensive line was without several likely starters and the same goes for the linebackers, and running backs.
Quarterback Justin Thomas played just a couple series, and as he was wearing a special jersey noting that he was not to be tackled, he was limited in what he was able to do other than pass. He tried two.
A-back Isaiah Willis missed the first, and wide receiver Ricky Jeune caught the second for a 21-yard gain along the right sideline.
“Nobody got hurt. That’s all I really care about,” Johnson said after the White team beat the Gold 21-0 with all points coming in the first half. “I think that [Thomas] had a pretty good spring . . . Any time you have multiple injuries at the same position, it’s magnified. It was kind of equal.”
There was so much mixing and matching of personnel and there were so many injuries that making note of who was first team and who was second was folly.
Even with that, some players stood out beyond Allen.
Sophomore defensive end KeShun Freeman was credited for six tackles, three for lost yardage and two sacks. Defensive end Kenderius Whitehead, who missed last season for academic reasons after transferring, made impressions while playing for both squads, and senior defensive tackle Jabari Hunt-Days — who likewise missed last season for academic reasons — was a force.
Defensive back Shaun Kagawa had the only interception, off a pass thrown by Chase Martenson, and potential third-string quarterback Matthew Jordan completed 2-of-5 passes for eight yards — when he wasn’t running for his life.
Backup quarterback Tim Byerly, running the White — or first team — offense after Thomas, completed 3-of-11 passes for 48 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown to wide receiver Micheal Summers. A few of his passes were dropped.
“[Jordan] drops back and looks to run every time,” Johnson said. “I thought Kenderius did some good things . . . Shaun Kagawa’s had a good spring.”
Allen did not exactly steal the show, but he was at the front of it.
His first run went for 23 yards on the right side, and he scored the game’s first touchdown on a 1-yard plunge late in the first quarter. Andrews scored on a 23-yarder in the second quarter before Summers closed out.
Allen’s role has changed, and he plans to make more changes as well.
“We kind of have a lot of younger guys on offense,” he said. “I can become a guy who can lead by example . . . and show how hard work and perseverance helps you achieve.”