Georgia Tech chaplain Derrick Moore was a heck of a running back in the mid-90s. Moore was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons and played for the Carolina Panthers. But the Tech chaplain made his biggest impact playing for the Detroit Lions. Though Moore was not as explosive as his Hall of Fame teammate Barry Sanders, he made a tremendous impact scoring in the red zone and bulldozing for short yardage. Whenever the nifty Sanders didn't end a run with a score, Moore made fantasy owners proud by finishing the drives.
This is the direction Georgia Tech should take regarding its B-back position.
Under no circumstances am I comparing Tech freshman Marcus Marshall to Barry Sanders. However, it is time for the explosive youngster to become the starting B-back for the Yellow Jackets.
One of the biggest concerns this past weekend was that every scoring drive against the Tar Heels was a methodical 10-plus play drive that ate up several minutes of clock. This is not a bad thing, but the Jackets were missing the explosive plays we have come accustomed to seeing from the offense. Being able to execute is great, but 10-play drives leaves very little room for error. Inserting Marshall into the starting lineup could provide Georgia Tech with another weapon defenses will have to prepare for with much more detail and concern.
This move is not based on what we know about Marshall. More this is based on what we already know about Patrick Skov. Skov is averaging 4.3 yards per carry. He has yet to rush for 100 yards in a single game. Skov is a good back, strong runner with a low center of gravity, but it is clear he is not explosive.
I think we all underestimated the contributions from Zach Laskey and Synjyn Days. We knew Days was a strong runner, but had no clue he had such good balance and speed. Right now, the offense is lacking that kind of threat. Defenses are playing games with Justin Thomas' reads, slow-playing him to make sure he does not carry the ball. They know if Thomas hands to the B-back, he'll only be a couple yards down field and feel like they can catch him.
What do we know about Marcus Marshall?
We know Marshall has good speed and vision. We know he has impressed the coaches and his teammates, as the other freshmen B-backs were moved to new positions. We know he's averaging 11.8 yards per carry. We know that while his big runs came against lower competition, the Jackets have runs of 30 yards or more four other times this season.
We know Marshall has to hold onto the ball and improve his play when the ball is not in his hands. Most importantly, we know the Jackets need to find a way to hit on some one-play touchdown drives to be successful against Clemson and moving forward.
What do we not know about Marcus Marshall?
No one knows how Marshall will react to extended playing time. In five games, he's only carried the ball 20 times. But he is second on the team in rushing with 235 yards. We don't know how this team will fair for the rest of the season going in its current direction. We don't know if Marshall will be productive against top-level competition. But we also don't know how good he could be if given the opportunity.
We all admire and even appreciate Coach Paul Johnson's approach to personnel. Players will rarely play until they are ready to contribute. However, there are times when a player simply needs on-the-job training. At this point of the season, Marshall needs to get more carries. We saw Mikell Lands-Davis get an opportunity (mostly because of injuries), but his size and ability helped him make an immediate impact. He missed a couple of blocks and assignments towards the end of the game, but he showed flashes that he could help and make plays. The ceiling for Marcus Marshall is unknown. All we know is that he is talented. Playing him might even be a risk, but after a three-game losing streak, he might be the risk we need to take.