Georgia Tech started last season with a massive hole in the backfield after Jahmyr Gibbs transferred to Alabama. Gibbs wasn’t the lone producer in 2021 as Dontae Smith and Jordan Mason also made it into rotation. Dontae Smith would finish third in rushing in 2021 with 378 yards on 68 carries with 4 touchdowns.
Last year, Dontae would take the bulk of the snaps to start the year but Louisville transfer Hassan Hall stole the show against Pittsburgh and kept a hold on the starting spot until the final game against Georgia. Smith still improved upon numbers and went for 420 yards on 87 carries with 5 touchdowns.
Hassan Hall has exhausted his eligibility leaving Dontae as the only proven option in the run game. Most of Tech’s other rushing yards came from Jeff Sims who departed for Nebraska. Dontae’s number did start to fall off once the coaching duties fell to Brent Key but this also coincided with a Sims injury and a rotation of inexperienced QBs. So how will Smith fare with a staff shakeup and being the primary option?
If you ever watched Smith run you understand his ability for making tacklers miss. Despite backing up a highlight machine in Gibbs, Dontae Smith could come in and create equally impressive plays with his ability to cut between defenders and escape broken plays. He proved this by leading in yards per carry for each of the last two seasons.
One thing Dontae could have a chance to add to his repertoire this year is his ability as a receiver. He has accumulated 223 yards receiving over his career but has yet to reach pay dirt with any reception. His shiftiness could be a weapon in the short game to quickly get him one on one with defensive backs in goal-line situations. New OC Bustner Faulker is known for developing QBs who can find their check downs so a chance for Smith to get some receptions in open space could be coming this season.
The addition of Norval McKenzie as running backs coach should also be a big boon for Smith this season. Coach McKenzie helped Javian Hawkins rush for 1500+ plus yards at Louisville in 2019 and Ray Davis for 1000 at Vanderbilt last year. Where he goes there seems to be a focus on a predominant running back and Dontae Smith will be the one to lead the charge for the Jackets this season.
Do you expect Dontae Smith to reach the 1000-yard threshold this season?