Oct. 1, 2014
By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word
– There have been no signs of moping among Georgia Tech’s A-backs — the speedy subset of Yellow Jackets who often run wild around the flanks of opposing defenses – even though they were a nearly silent lot their last time out.
With Miami due in Bobby Dodd Stadium Saturday and the prospect of Tech’s perimeter posse being more involved than when they combined to rush three times for 1 yard in a 27-24 win at Virginia Tech, Tech’s wingbacks are just fine.
“It does not matter to us as a group because we’re unselfish guys … as long as we’re winning, moving the ball, getting first downs, we’re happy,” said senior A-back B.J. Bostic. “I’m really excited about this game. I know for a fact that last year, the A-backs were real busy [against Miami].”
Everybody was involved a lot in last season’s loss in Miami; the Jackets ran 81 plays. Three quarterbacks played, and 12 players carried the ball.
At Virginia Tech, quarterback Justin Thomas and B-back Zack Laskey combined for 39 of the Jackets’ 43 rushes.
The fact that Zenon rushed just twice for 3 yards and Zenon lost two yards on his only carry against the Hokies was not a reflection of diminished performance of the A-backs in practice or games.
Head coach Paul Johnson, in fact, found humor when asked about the deployment of his wingbacks.
“Deployment? We weren’t able to get an aircraft carrier to them,” he joked. “It’s just what the defense does. It’s just the nature of the thing, the way the defense was playing.”
Zenon said he wasn’t surprised in Blacksburg.
“Virginia Tech, I guess their objective was to take the A-backs out of the game, but at the same time we contribute in all phases, whether it’s blocking, running the ball or catching it,” he said. “In that game, we had to contribute by blocking for the B-backs.”
Johnson said Georgia Tech’s blocking on the perimeter was poor early against Virginia Tech and the Hokies were determined not to let Jacket wingbacks run amok. Yet that strategy helped set the stage for Thomas to rush 22 times for a career-high 165 yards and a touchdown. The QB was Johnson’s counter-punch.
Thomas is taking some of the carries that might go to A-backs, partly through the way opposing defenses scheme against the Jackets and partly because Johnson is calling his number often on straight-out runs.
The third-year sophomore leads the Jackets with 443 rushing yards and a 6.8-yard average per carry. He’s second in the nation in rushing by a quarterback, with his per-game average of 110.8 yards trailing only the 115.8 of Boston College senior Tyler Murphy.
The Hokies, “basically took us out of the game,” Bostic said. “Whoever the pitch man was, they were taking as opposed to the quarterback.”
In Miami’s 45-30 win last season, the Hurricanes mixed defensive strategies. As a result, B-backs David Sims and Laskey combined for 21 carries and 105 yards, and quarterbacks Vad Lee, Thomas and Tim Byerly rushed 18 times for 67 yards although sacks factored into those yardage totals.
The Jackets expect more of the same. “We’ve got to read [Miami’s scheme] and react to it,” Bostic said. “I plan on us getting a lot of touches on the perimeter. This year, we have to capitalize when we get our opportunities.”
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