Breaking down the Jackets: A-back

Georgia Tech running back Clinton Lynch (22) runs for a touchdown against the Georgia in the first half at Sanford Stadium on Saturday, November 26, 2016. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Georgia Tech running back Clinton Lynch (22) runs for a touchdown against the Georgia in the first half at Sanford Stadium on Saturday, November 26, 2016. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Perhaps the strongest position group on the team, Georgia Tech’s A-backs could provide the best three-man rotation in coach Paul Johnson’s tenure in Qua Searcy, Clinton Lynch and J.J. Green. Lynch, who Johnson said is 100 percent after the surgery that kept him out of spring practice, is going on his third season as a starter and on track to have the most productive career of any A-back to play at Tech.

Searcy will be a returning starter after a sophomore season that was not the most consistent but memorably explosive. Green gives the sort of blocking the offense needs at that position and has contributed on special teams.

While their statistics rarely pile up because their touches are limited, A-backs are critical to the functioning of the Tech offense. On triple-option plays, their perimeter blocking frees up space on plays to the outside, where an effective cut block can be the difference between a 5-yard gain and a run for 50 yards.

With the ball on option pitches, they have often the potential to hit bigger plays than the B-back. Often free on wheel routes and out of the slot in the pass game, they can be as dangerous as wide receivers. It’s not coincidence that Tech’s A-backs were mowed down by injury during the freefall season of 2015.

With Lynch, Green and Searcy geared up for a second season together, it bodes well for the health of the Tech offense.

First team after spring: Clinton Lynch, junior, J.J. Green, senior.

Notable reserves: Qua Searcy, senior, Nathan Cottrell, sophomore.

On the way: Xavier Gantt, redshirt freshman.

Analysis: The experience that this group brings to the offense will serve as a support for the starting quarterback (most likely Matthew Jordan) in a way that the 2014 group (Charles Perkins, Deon Hill, Tony Zenon and B.J. Bostic) did for Justin Thomas in his first season as a starter.

Lynch has proved himself as a playmaker. Green exemplifies the versatility that the position requires. Searcy has shown a knack for big plays. They were no small part of the team’s success in 2016 and that role figures to expand with their expected improvement and a new quarterback in place.

A challenge for Johnson and A-backs coach Lamar Owens will be finding snaps for those below that threesome in the depth chart, such as Cottrell, Gantt and Omahri Jarrett. Incoming freshman Jordan Ponchez-Mason is seen as a possibility at A-back and B-back. Camp may determine his position.

Factoid: Searcy's given name is Micquavius.

Statistic: Lynch has averaged 14.6 yards per touch on offense in his career. Former Tech A-backs Orwin Smith and Robert Godhigh averaged 10.9. He has also averaged seven touches per touchdown. Godhigh's rate was 10.2 per touchdown and Smith's was 11.0 touches per score.

Prediction: Like last season, Lynch, Green and Searcy likely will split starts. If Tech goes 9-3 and Lynch puts up numbers similar to last season, he'll get strong consideration to become the first Tech A-back to make the coaches or media All-ACC team.

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