This Spring puts Georgia Tech football in an interesting position. No B-back on the team has seen a single snap in a live college game for the first time since Paul's Johnson's arrival on campus. So what can Jacket fans expect from the two candidates? We'll break down their High School highlights here to see what they bring to the table.
Leggett is the early favorite to win the starting job, having already spent a year with the team as a redshirting freshman. Originally recruited as either an A-back or B-back, Leggett transitioned to B-back full time with the losses of Travis Custis and Donovan Wilson.
In the above highlights, Leggett flashes traits that will translate well to the B-back position, but are different from the skills predecessors Synjyn Days and Zach Laskey possessed. Both Days and Laskey were direct runners. They hit the hole quickly and plowed over defenders to get tough, reliable yards. The first thing that jumped out to me in Leggett's tape was his ability on lateral cuts. In his offense in High school, which was run primarily out of the shotgun, he was utilized in both Zone Stretch and Zone Counter plays extensively, and excelled. In a zone stretch, the offensive line moves laterally towards the sideline, the running back takes the handoff and runs East-West, looking for a hole to cut upfield into. If there is none. He bounces outside. On the very first play of the highlight video, Leggett cuts upfield thinking he sees something, then stops and still has the ability to bounce outside when the hole closes. CJ's ability to change direction is so good, the North Gwinnett coaches also used him on counters where he would take the hand off running towards one sideline, then simply turn back and run the other way. This play can be seen at the 5:52 mark.
So, in an offense where he will be running primarily North-South, how is this useful or promising? It demonstrates that he is dangerous in space. Once he gets to the second level, he can diagnose the situation quickly and make the right moves to turn a good play into an explosive one. Leggett is by no means a one trick pony either. He can take the hand off straight up the middle, get involved in the screen game, and break tackles. This is what truly impresses me about him. He just does so many things well.
Leggett has some weaknesses however. While his speed is decent, and quite possibly best we've had at the position since Anthony Allen, it isn't elite. Additionally, his size is more or less average for a tailback, and is probably smaller than ideal for a B-back. Lastly, while he can jump cut defenders out of their shoes, I didn't see many quick or subtle moves made. This could allow pursuit to catch him if he doesn't get upfield quickly enough.
The versatility will truly be able to open up the offense, so these weaknesses aren't a huge deal and making quicker cuts is something that can be coached into him. I'm excited to see how his skills will allow us to open up the offense. Despite getting back to basics with the offense this season, Coach Johnson repeatedly sent Zach Laskey into the flat on routes in the red zone, and I think Leggett will be able to do this even more effectively, especially if there are blockers in front. Leggett will be one to watch during the Spring game, because his skill set could change how the offense operates next season.
"If it ain't broke don't fix it" is a saying we've all heard a thousand times, but it applies to Georgia Tech's offense going into 2015. The offense was nearly unstoppable at the end of the year, putting up huge numbers on many top defenses. Both Laskey and Days were huge backs, gaining the tough yards every play. Of the 4 new B-backs that will be vying for playing time this Fall, the one who fits that mold the best is Quaide Weimerskrich.
Quaide definitely shows the power running style that was featured in the 2014 Georgia Tech offense, but he also shows an extra bit of athleticism that pleasantly surprised me. He appears to be more fluid in his cuts than Laskey, and appears to be more sudden in his cuts than Days. I was also surprised by his speed. Quaide regularly torches the opponent's secondary, and even had several kick returns for touchdowns during his senior year. Pace High School is a 6A school in Florida out of a possible 8, so the level of his competition is high as well.
Weimerskirch's cuts are more decisive than Leggett's, though he won't break opponent's ankles like CJ. His film is also lacks many highlights where he catches passes out of the backfield. While not a huge issue, it shows the major difference between the two candidates for the starting B-back job this Spring. Leggett can easily open up the offense and make it explosive, but Weimerskirch is the better back for slow, methodical death marches.
Personally, I think that Leggett's experience will allow him to get the winning job this Spring, but it will be close, and the Week 1 starter won't be decided until the end of Fall camp. With Mikell Lands-Davis and Marcus Marshall joining the team in the summer, there will be a healthy amount of competition going into camp, and plenty of talent. I can't wait to see Marshall's speed in the open field in the summer scrimmages. The cupboard may be bare at B-back in terms of game experience this year, but it is certainly stocked full of talent. Watching that talent display itself will certainly make for an exciting offseason.