September 22, 2018 Atlanta - Georgia Tech running back Clinton Lynch (22) catches a pass as Clemson defensive back K'Von Wallace (12) pursues in the second half at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday, September 22, 2018. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Placing Clinton Lynch among Georgia Tech’s A-back standouts

When Robert Godhigh returns to Bobby Dodd Stadium to watch his former team, his eyes typically go somewhere familiar.

“I’m kind of biased to watching the A-backs just because that’s where I played,” Godhigh said. “Knowing the offense, you can kind of watch both (the ball and the A-backs) at the same time and have an idea of what’s going on.”

His observations have given him an appreciation for the latest expert practitioner of the A-back craft, Clinton Lynch.

“He kind of reminds me of Orwin (Smith),” Godhigh said. “Anytime he touches the ball, he can break it 60, 70 yards at any point. He’s got speed, vision, he can catch, he can run. He’s definitely a big-play guy.”

As Lynch’s career enters its homestretch, the senior is on the verge of reaching a standard that represents that big-play knack. With 26 more receiving yards, Lynch will become the first player in Tech history to record 1,000 rushing and receiving yards in a career.

“I don’t really pay much attention to (statistics), but it’s really surprising and it’s a blessing,” Lynch said.

Another admirer is Deon Hill, a former teammate and a current work colleague. Hill played A-back from 2011 to 2014, his last season coinciding with Lynch’s first season on campus, when he redshirted. Hill is now a consultant at Barton Executive Search, where Lynch has interned since the summer.

(Hill’s scouting report on Lynch as intern: “He’s learning fast, he’s picking up on things. You can even see the difference from this summer and this semester, as well, how he’s helping us out on a day-to-day basis.”)

As teammates, Hill appreciated Lynch’s work ethic and willingness to soak up wisdom and follow the lead of the 2014 team’s ensemble of A-backs, including Charles Perkins, Tony Zenon, B.J. Bostic and Hill.

“He made a great name for himself, he works hard, he deserves it,” Hill said. “And I don’t think he’s bragging about it or boastful. … He just wants to win.”

The pending 1,000/1,000 achievement overwhelmed Godhigh, particularly because of the limited touches that A-backs get in the offense. Godhigh ran for 1,191 yards and had 698 yards worth of receptions.

“So to be able to get 1,000 yards rushing and receiving is huge because that just means that every time you touch the ball, you’re making the most of it,” said Godhigh, now a project analyst for Travelport, a software company. “You’re making big plays, you’re getting yards after contact, you’re making people miss.”

Lynch’s numbers are remarkable. He has reached 974 receiving yards with only 36 catches, an average of 27.1 yards per reception, a demonstration of the potency of Tech’s play-action passing game. Eleven have been touchdowns. He has had six catches of 50 yards, as many as the rest of the team in that span. In the run game, Lynch has 120 carries for 1,120 yards with eight touchdowns.

Overall, that’s 13.4 yards per touch and a touchdown per 8.2 touches.

The comparables for Smith: 10.9 yards per touch and one touchdown for every 11 touches.

Godhigh: 10.9 yards per touch, one touchdown for every 10.2 touches.

Roddy Jones: 8.5 yards per touch, one touchdown for every 14 touches.

Smith is first among A-backs in yards from scrimmage at 2,654. Jones is next at 2,112. Lynch, with eight regular-season games left in his final season, is at 2,094.

Lynch is not the perimeter blocker that Jones or Godhigh were, but that aspect of his game clearly has improved this season.

Coach Paul Johnson, asked about Lynch this week, placed him on that top tier of A-backs to play for him at Tech.

“He’s just a good little player,” Johnson said. “He’s consistent and he seems to have a knack for being in the spot that gets the ball, and he makes plays when he has the opportunity to do so. He’s had a lot of big plays in his career.”

Lynch has benefited from good timing. He has been in the rotation and started frequently since his redshirt freshman season in 2015, thanks in part to the position being open with Perkins, Hill, Zenon and Bostic completing their careers in 2014. He also played his first two seasons with arguably the best quarterback of Johnson’s tenure and inarguably the best passer, Justin Thomas.

But he’s the one who won the job as a freshman, knew the offense well enough to know how to find the angles and seams and made the plays when they were there to be made. For good measure, he came to Tech as one of the last players added to the 2014 signing class, a two-star prospect from Norcross High who had been committed to Georgia State and was offered a scholarship to Tech only when a spot opened up. And, with 26 more receiving yards, he’ll have accomplished something no Tech player has ever achieved.

“Just hard work definitely pays off,” Lynch said, asked to explain his perspective on his career. “I was committed to Georgia State for over, like two months, and Georgia Tech gave me an opportunity and I just wanted to take advantage of it and just use it to the best of my abilities.”

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