May 1, 2018
GEORGIA TECH ATHLETICS BRAND WEBSITE (Season Ticket holders: Select Fan Zone from Menu to vote for exclusive adidas t-shirt design)
Jon Cooper | The Good Word
Paul Johnson will be the first to tell you that nothing is guaranteed.
Take the B-back position in Georgia Tech’s offense. A year ago at this time, KirVonte Benson and Quaide Weimerskirch were being counted on as solid backups. In fact, following last year’s spring game, Johnson called them “2A and 2B.” But by the week of the season-opener, circumstances — specifically the dismissal of projected starter Dedrick Mills — pushed Benson to the top of the depth chart.
“We played two guys [at B-back] a year ago [Mills and Marcus Marshall]. One of them had 700 yards, the other had 700 yards, roughly. The guy this year will have that much or more,” said Johnson the week of last season’s opener. “That’s the nature of what it is.”
He was proven right, as Benson ran for 1,073 yards with five 100-yard games and six rushing touchdowns in ’17.
Coming out of the `18 spring game, the nature of the beast at B-Back hasn’t changed and, again, nothing is guaranteed. But an great problem is starting to emerge in regards to the position. It’s no longer which B-back is going to rack up a plethora of yards and touchdowns but, rather, how many of the talented returners at the position will do so?
Where Benson carried the bulk of the load at B-back last season, this spring saw the emergence of sophomore Jerry Howard and redshirt freshman Jordan Mason, which should mean a Benson’s load gets lightened without any kind of drop-off in overall production.
In the spring game, the trio combined for 106 yards on 27 carries. If it seemed like a short night, it was. For a little perspective, Benson had fewer than 13 carries only three times all last season. But spreading the wealth is okay with Johnson.
“I feel good about that position with Jerry and KirVonte,” Johnson said following the conclusion of the April 20 spring finale. “Jerry’s going to play. He’s a good player. Jordan, when he gets some reps, is a good athlete and we’ve got a couple of guys coming in. So we’ve got some pretty good depth there. KirVonte, there was no reason to play him a lot.”
Regardless of which of the three gets the ball, all are vastly improved. Benson can build off his monster sophomore season — he’d entered 2017 having not even touched the ball in a game. Howard also will be be able to build off of his freshman campaign, when he carried 23 times for 175 yards (7.6 yards per carry) with two TDs. Mason will almost certainly get to see the field after redshirting as a true freshman a year ago. How much time he’ll see at B-back is unknown, primarily due to Howard’s presence, but also because of his athleticism — Johnson has already stated that Mason might also get on the field at A-back.
Redshirt sophomore Joseph Macrina, who began the spring as a long snapper before moving to B-back and amassing 29 yards on eight carries in the spring game, is also looking to knock on the door.
Howard certainly felt he grew from the experience this spring.
“I learned a lot. I felt like I was more comfortable with the plays and I picked it up fast and adjusted with my reads and I worked on my blocking a lot,” he said. “So I felt like I had a pretty good spring.”
Howard also seemed to feel pretty good in speaking for his fellow B-backs in terms of what’s next.
“I just plan on competing,” he said. “In fall camp, we’ll find out then.”