In 2011, Georgia Tech's A-Back rotation consisted primarily of seniors Roddy Jones and Embry Peeples along with junior Orwin Smith -- the trio combined for 165 carries on the year, and the leader after that was redshirt freshman Tony Zenon with 15 attempts. With the graduation of Jones and Peeples, there was a lot of concern and confusion over who would be filling that role -- BJ Bostic missed 2011 with a broken arm, and Zenon and Deon Hill were coming off their first non-redshirt season at the college level.
As it turned out, that role would be filled for the next two seasons by someone who actually wasn't on scholarship until fall camp of 2012 -- Robert Godhigh. Yes, an undersized walk-on ended up impressing the coaches enough to win the starting job opposite Smith.
The point here? Don't be surprised when you see a similar story about Isiah Willis (except with 'Smith' replaced by 'Snoddy') in the next few weeks, because a former walk-on may well end up starting at A-Back once more.
Unfortunately, this section won't be incredibly extensive. In his career so far, 'Ike' Willis has only 4 carries, although they've gone for 40 yards (for a strong 10 yards per carry). Even with a limited statistical workload, the Lassiter High School alumnus saw action in 9 games last season, including each of the final seven games.
At 5'9", 193 pounds, Willis is going to draw a lot of comparisons to Godhigh (5'7", 190 pounds), and rightfully so -- they have similar builds and skill sets. Moving forward, expect Willis's role to expand considerably, as Godhigh's did in 2012. His contributions to date have primarily been to exercise his strong blocking abilities on the perimeter, which will serve as a very nice compliment to Broderick Snoddy and other ballcarriers he'll be charged with leading for. That's not to say that Willis won't be getting the ball much, though. He's got a good combination of speed, vision, and balance that make him a strong candidate to carry the ball as an A-Back. In addition to his ball-carrying and blocking abilities, he has above-average hands that would make him an asset in the passing game as well.
With the premium that will be on experience at A-Back this fall, Willis having three years at the position already will prove invaluable both on and off the field. Especially early on, expect Isaiah Willis to be on the field in some of the game's bigger moments, and expect to see him mentoring some of the younger A-Backs as they get more comfortable with their role and assignments.
Are your expectations for Isiah Willis particularly high? Might he be the next former walk-on to make a big impact on the field?