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Opinion Week: Keep Calm and Carry On

Or: how I learned to stop worrying and love our rushing game.

This guy, the one with the ball? Yeah, he'll be fine.
This guy, the one with the ball? Yeah, he'll be fine.
Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

It's not hard to look at who Georgia Tech returns at running back and feel a little concerned. I mean, just look at last year's stats and pick out the people who didn't graduate. (If you've forgotten, there are more not coming back than coming back. A lot more.) It's totally understandable to feel this way! Lots of teams struggle a bit a year after graduating tons of talent! I think there's even a term for a year like that, though I'm not totally sure. Regardless, you shouldn't worry. I want you all to just calm down. Take deep breaths. Now is not the time for fear. That comes later. Probably around week 4.

You may not be aware, but Paul Johnson's offense is based heavily on the run. Having a quarterback that knows the system well but can also improvise is key. Fortunately, Tech has that in Justin Thomas. He'll be around for another couple of seasons. Cherish these moments. More than any other quarterback Paul Johnson has had at Tech, Thomas knows when to keep the ball and when to give it away. He makes very few mistakes. He has a good eye for who should take the ball on any given play. These are all reasons the Jackets racked up just shy of 5,000 rushing yards last season, but all Thomas did for the A- and B-backs was give them the ball. They still had to get their own yards. Below are the stats for last year's running backs who had at least ten carries. Which is all of them.... except one. Sorry, Isiah Willis. I do think you'll get much more than two carries this year, for what it's worth.

Georgia Tech Running Backs, 2014

Player Rushes Yards Yards/Rush
Charles Perkins 49 443 9.04
Tony Zenon 45 293 6.51
Broderick Snoddy 28 283 10.11
Deon Hill 34 232 6.82
B.J. Bostic 22 134 6.09
Dennis Andrews 16 106 6.63
Synjyn Days 157 924 5.89
Zach Laskey 171 851 4.98
Matt Connors 21 113 5.38
Totals 543 3379 6.22

Georgia Tech football in 2014 didn't have one absolutely standout, electrifying A-back like a Robert Godhigh or an Orwin Smith. Instead, it just had a bunch of guys who were pretty damn good at their job. By themselves, the A-backs averaged 7.69 yards a carry. Synjyn Days, someone who had never played B-back until this season and who had very limited touches until being forced to start in the eighth game, took that role and wrecked the house. Every single back who had significant playing time averaged at least five yards a carry, except Laskey, who was percentage points shy. This is probably the most "team" oriented effort I've ever seen from Tech, and it's hard to argue with the results. 6.22 yards per carry isn't just good, it's fantastic, and everyone on this team carried their weight.

(Socialism works, kids. That's what I'm saying here.)

One year does not make for a good sample, of course. Let's go back one year to a season that was..... not so good. Below are the stats for the running backs in 2013:

Georgia Tech Running Backs, 2013

Player Rushes Yards Yards/Rush
Robert Godhigh 79 744 9.42
Broderick Snoddy 24 150 6.25
Dennis Andrews 12 140 11.67
Deon Hill 13 119 9.15
B.J. Bostic 16 116 7.25
Charles Perkins 13 114 8.77
Synjyn Days 27 93 3.44
Tony Zenon 14 35 2.50
David Sims 161 884 5.49
Zach Laskey 84 485 5.77
Matt Connors 16 102 6.38
Totals 459 2982 6.50

The 2013 edition of Georgia Tech football may best be remembered by its offensive line - which occasionally resembled a fine sieve - and as a season which consequently saw Vad Lee constantly fleeing for his life (often unsuccessfully at that). And yet, the running back corps still managed an eye-popping 6.5 yards per carry, with the A-backs averaging 7.63. That's not to say a good O-line doesn't make a difference - it does, and Lee's 2.8 yards per carry average is a clear indicator of that. But even with a heavily tweaked offense that the quarterback struggled in anyway, Tech's yards per carry average was near the top of the charts. Of course, Godhigh got the lion's share of A-back carries and may have been the best all-around player on the team, but when it came to yards per carry he had a lot of company.

Now let's go back one more year to a season that was even worse. Here's how Tech's running backs fared in 2012.

Georgia Tech Running Backs, 2012

Player Rushes Yards Yards/Rush
Orwin Smith 79 682 8.63
Robert Godhigh 54 429 7.94
B.J. Bostic 34 212 6.24
Tony Zenon 31 193 6.23
Synjyn Days 23 142 6.17
Broderick Snoddy 13 50 3.85
Zach Laskey 133 697 5.24
David Sims 135 612 4.53
Totals 502 3017 6.01

This is more or less the beginning of the previous cycle. Players like Godhigh, Laskey, and Bostic had put up few if any yards before this season, but stepped right into their respective roles and crushed it. Was 2012 a bad season for Georgia Tech football? Yes, yes it was. But the offense chugged along like it always does. Godhigh had just received a scholarship. Bostic had missed a season and a half. Laskey was a redshirt sophomore with zero touches. Synjyn Days had just switched to A-back from quarterback. And yet despite all of that, Tech had the 12th best game in all the land in yards per carry.

With that, I rest my case. You can change the quarterback out. You can have shoddy offensive line play. You can replace three quarters of the running backs. It doesn't matter. They'll get the yards. And with some veteran leadership from Broderick Snoddy and Dennis Andrews, this year's group will....

hold on

Dennis Andrews did what now?

Forget it. Forget everything I said. It is time to panic. Our season is doomed. DOOOOOOOOOOOOOMED!