August 21, 2009

Jackets stacked at A-back

One of the biggest strengths on the 2009 Georgia Tech football is the A-back position. Both 2008 starters Roddy Jones and Lucas Cox return and several new faces and returning players are trying to claw their way up the depth chart to challenge for playing time this fall. One of the main challenges is former B-back and Louisville transfer Anthony Allen who sat out the 2008 season after arriving in Atlanta.

"We are having a good camp and we are learning. We got a couple of veterans in Cox and Jones that started all 13 games, so they have a leg up on the other guys by just having played more," A-back Coach Jeff Monken said. "I have been very pleased with Anthony Allen. He made the transition in the spring and we got full time for about a week at the end of the spring, so he still has some stuff to learn. Anthony has a lot of ability and I am excited about him."

Behind the top trio of Jones, Cox and Allen are several younger players including sophomores Embry Peeples and the fleet footed Marcus Wright. Both players struggled learning the offense last year, but they have impressed Monken in camp so far.

"Embry and Marcus have developed. Last year they were really raw and green," he said. "They did not know what to do and we really tried to limit what we asked them to do last year. They are coming along and having a good camp."

A pair of true freshmen Orwin Smith and Robbie Godhigh have also impressed Monken as has converted receiver Paul Reese.

"The two freshmen that have really impressed us are Orwin Smith and Robbie Godhigh. Both of those guys have done a nice job," Monken said. "One other guy who was a scout team player for us last year that has done some good things in the passing game is Paul Reese. We got some depth and that is good for our position. We have some good healthy competition and guys battling for the starting spot and we have guys battling for the spots on the bus to be one of the five or six guys who will be in the rotation. It has been a good camp and we have a long way to go, but we will continue to get better as an offense."

The new faces have benefited from extra snaps due to Jones' wrist injury that limits what he can do in practice and does not allow him to be involved in drills that have live defenders. Jones is having the pins in his wrist removed and will no longer be in a cast after Monday afternoon.

"Roddy got hurt of course, and we are going to get him back," Monken said. "We are optimistic that he may be able to play as early as the first game and I hope that is the case. We will see what happens with that."

With a variety of players with different skill sets, the Jackets could use different A-backs in specific situations this season according to Monken.

"We try to find the two best guys and play them where they line up," he said. "One guy is on the right and one guy is on the left and not move them around. Each one of them has a specific thing they bring to the party. Some are better blockers, some are better in the passing game and some are better runners, so situationally we will try to get those guys in the game to do those things."

Monken concedes that using situational substitutions is probably going to be the plan this season, but they are hoping to have four guys who excel in all three phases of the game, so teams are not able to prepare for specific personnel groupings and key on certain players.

"Ultimately you just like to find three or four guys that are good at doing all three of those things, at blocking, running and catching the ball," he said. "We want to be able to play those guys and rotate them in, so it does not matter where they line up, whether it is right side or left side, or in an unbalanced formation, it should not matter. Hopefully we will come up with three or four guys we can do that with and then spot play the other guys."

When they have their three or four guys, Monken says there will still be room for a couple of guys for certain situations like goal line or third and long, but they will try to keep those subs to a minimum.

"If there is a particular guy who is really good in the passing game, we will try to use him on downs where are going to throw the ball and it is obvious we are going to throw the ball," he said. "You can't get so tendency oriented with personal groups that teams know when they see this guy trotting onto the field, they know okay they are going to throw the ball. You cannot build up tendencies like that. Ultimately we will take the best three or four guys and we will rotate and play them wherever they line up."

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