No position has provided decade-long productivity and consistency for Paul Johnson and company quite like the B-Backs. It has been the position of numerous great Tech players (Jonathan Dwyer, David Sims, and Zach Laskey) and the position of plenty more would-be greats (Travis Custis and Dedrick Mills, anyone?), but few have been able provide what we got from KirVonte Benson in 2017: a 1,000-yard season.
The good news? He’s back for his redshirt junior season! The better news? So is the interior part of the offensive line that allowed him to hit such a lofty milestone! The best news? So is the quarterback who he gelled so well with!
Now for the bad news...
Yeah, there is none. B-Back remains arguably the deepest position on the team and will be as productive in 2018 as it’s always been, barring massive injuries or regression. Let’s take a deeper look at who the contributors will be:
In case you didn't figure this out by now, KirVonte Benson will receive the lion’s share of the work at B-Back as of right now. He put up a strong 5.2 yards per carry in 2017, a figure spurred on by five 100-yard rushing performances in 11 games. Benson’s absolute breakout came in Tech’s victory over Pittsburgh and the coach who cried chop block when he put up 196 yards and 2 touchdowns on 29 carries.
As a runner, Benson showed excellent patience and vision from week one. No one expected his speedy rise to prominence after the dismissal of Dedrick Mills, but he took over the reigns as a redshirt sophomore and never looked back. He’s strong for his size and has great balance to match, much like his predecessor. We’re in good hands.
The Prodigal South Carolinian
Next up on the depth chart will be rising sophomore Jerry Howard. The Rock Hill, SC native has an exciting combination of strength and burst — something he put on display with a 65-yard touchdown run in week two versus Jacksonville State. It’s hard to call someone of Howard’s skillset a change-of-pace back in comparison with Benson, but he does measure in at three inches taller than Benson and will certainly back up KirVonte in 2018.
Though he was used sparingly when all was said and done, Howard finished with 23 carries for 175 yards and 2 scores on the season. Expect those figures to rise in 2018 as he continues his growth from true freshman to sophomore in preparation for one day taking over the starting job on the Flats.
Who comes next?
With the departure of Quaide Weimerskirch, Georgia Tech lost its primary third option at B-Back. Nothing is set in stone until the first game kicks off, but it is reasonable to expect for rising redshirt freshman Jordan Ponchez-Mason to pick up some late-game work at the position. He’s an incredibly talented player with the ability to play B-Back or A-Back — a position with much more uncertainty — and could get a shot at both positions throughout the season. Ponchez-Mason’s ceiling is very high, but there’s too much in front of him at B-Back to expect much this season.
Outside of those three, don’t expect to see much excitement. Paul Johnson’s B-Back rotation is generally shallow (he went just three deep in 2017), and here’s a quick rundown of all the previously unmentioned B-Back commits since 2014:
- Mikell Lands-Davis (2015) - left the team
- Marcus Marshall (2015) - transferred
- Quaide Weimerskirch (2015) - transferred
- Dedrick Mills (2016) - kicked off the team
- Christian Malloy (2018)
That’s not me cherry-picking, either. Malloy is the only one not named Benson, Howard, or Mason who is still with the program. Don’t take it as an insult, either — take it as three guys recognizing that the existing talent is too good to compete with plus Dedrick Mills being bad at decision-making.
Get ready for the ground-and-pound, everyone. The Benson/Howard combo might be the most fun thunder-and-lightning (or thunder-and-more-thunder) look we’ve seen since Days and Laskey in 2014. That’s something to be very excited for.