The experience on Georgia Tech’s offense lies primarily with its A-backs.
With underclassmen or inexperienced starters sprinkled throughout other position groups, the top three returning A-backs are coming off an impressive 2016.
Clinton Lynch, Qua Searcy and J.J. Green helped develop one of the most explosive offenses in Paul Johnson’s tenure a season ago. Lynch and Searcy, now both juniors, formed a double-trouble duo who became downfield threats in the passing game and on the perimeter. Green, now a senior, provided the consistent blocking on the edge that’s critical from the position.
Returning from all the success of last season, the A-backs group is ready to lead the team again.
“We’re always the ones talking, we’re always the ones trying to bring the energy,” Lynch said. “We always have to get the offense going no matter what, so we just have to bring the energy and keep it moving.”
Lynch underwent unspecified surgery in the offseason and missed spring workouts. Johnson has said he’s 100 percent and after Monday’s practice — the final day before players put on pads for the first time — Lynch confirmed that he’s completely recovered.
“Amazing … I feel blessed to be back out there,” Lynch said. “I missed all spring. It was very humbling, but I’m glad to be back out there. It took me a couple days to get going, but I think I’m winding back down and getting in the groove of things.”
Lynch’s health will be a key. He provided the explosive playmaking that drove the Jackets’ offense in 2016. He averaged 11.2 yards per rush and 30.6 yards per catch, while Searcy averaged 5.9 yards per rush and 18.3 yards per catch.
As a team, Tech ranked fourth in the nation with 10.5 yards per pass attempt and 16th in the nation with 5.49 yards per rush. It finished third in the country for the most 50-plus-yard runs (9) and eighth for most 50-plus-yard plays from scrimmage (16).
“We have a group to where whenever Coach calls a play and needs someone to make a play, someone will make a play,” Searcy said. “Whether it’s me, Clinton or J.J. … or even the younger guys like Nathan (Cottrell) and Omahri (Jarrett), whoever’s name is called, someone will make a play.”
Asked who could potentially back up the three main returnees, Johnson added one more name to the group that had separated himself from the others.
“You’ve got four guys that are probably separated, with Nathan Cottrell in that group,” Johnson said. “And then Omahri Jarrett’s played and then depending on what we do with TaQuon (Marshall).”
Cottrell primarily was used on special teams as a return man in 2016 and had just one carry for six yards. Now a sophomore, he’ll look to step into the A-backs group that Johnson rotates frequently. He suffered an ACL tear in 2015.
“He’s back physically,” Johnson said. “He had an OK spring. He was a little behind, but I think now he’s to the point where he understands and he can play full speed. And he’s got good speed … he can run.”
Marshall, who came to Tech as a quarterback, could be the other player to filter into the rotation, depending on how the quarterback battle goes. Johnson said he won’t decide on where he will play until Tech solidifies its quarterback situation over the next few weeks. Marshall, listed on the preseason depth chart as the No. 2 quarterback, played nine games at A-back as a freshman in 2015.
Matthew Jordan, who is coming off foot surgery but is still the favorite to win the job at quarterback, has liked what he’s seen from the A-backs in practice.
“They’ve all looked good, he said. “We’ve got a couple new guys … they’re just trying to get adjusted … things like that. But overall, they look good.”
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