I'll be frank with this. The A-backs this year were pretty bad. A lot of that came from youth/inexperience, but even our more experienced guys (Broderick Snoddy and Ike Willis) weren't terrific. Were they complete liabilities? At times, yes, but not all the time. The key thing to remember about the A-backs this season is that they got some much-needed in-game experience.
In a rotation of about seven guys (including Snoddy and Willis), six of those players had never received consistent playing time at A-back. In fact, Snoddy was the only one who had. But there were certainly some bright spots there.
Perhaps the brightest spot was redshirt freshman Clinton Lynch. He's not the biggest or strongest or even the most talented A-back we have on the roster, but he was our best one this season. He led all A-backs in rushing and receiving, while also serving as a decent blocker most of the time. He finished the season with 48 carries for 457 yards (9.5 yards/carry) and five touchdowns rushing and 11 catches for 273 yards (24.8 yards/catch) and three touchdowns.
While they didn't have as good a season as Lynch did, Lynn Griffin and Qua Searcy both showed excellent promise, as did Mikell Lands-Davis, though his was as a blocker and receiver. One of the more exciting guys to watch at A-back this year was Taquon Marshall. He only had eight carries for 58 yards and three catches for 76 yards and a touchdown, but the small sample size we saw of him was enough to get many people excited for his potential. He brings some serious speed and decision-making ability off the edge.
Tech lost a couple of reserve guys in Roberto Hinojosa and Denis Onwualu, but the main guy that they lost here is Broderick Snoddy.
Snoddy had his season cut short with some injuries, but managed to finish with 20 carries for 181 yards and a touchdown and caught one 15-yard catch. Snoddy grew into a fantastic A-back for the Jackets in his junior season and continued that into this season. Something that was spectacular about his numbers is that all season he only lost three yards. For comparison, the next closest A-back with double digit carries lost 11 yards. It shows that he always fought for his yards.
He was a mentor to a lot of the younger guys on the team -- something we desperately needed this year -- so losing Snoddy as a mentor will mean a lot to this team. Hopefully, his time on the Flats helped groom some of the younger A-backs to become examples for the next crop.
So this is where it gets fun. Tech had four true/redshirt freshmen play this year. That number could have been much higher, as they had four more guys, albeit one was a walk-on, who redshirted this year. The guys there to keep an eye on are Omahri Jarrett and Nate Cottrell. Both of these guys are fast. Now that they've had a year in the system, it should only be a matter of time before they get brought up to speed.
That's not where the excitement ends, though. Not even close really. Prior to last season, Tech added a transfer student at A-back in the form of former UGA running back J.J. Green. I don't know how he'll do in Tech's system, but it's always nice to add another back who has in-game experience. Even if it's just as a reserve, he'll definitely have a role to play with the Jackets this season.
And the excitement still isn't over! Looking at Tech's current recruiting class, they currently have one guy who will be a surefire A-back in Xavier Gantt and another one who could if quarterback doesn't work out in Jay Jones. While the staff is probably not intentionally trying to add anymore A-backs, there are still a couple of guys left on the big board who could make a serious impact there: Demetris Robertson, Deshaunte Jones and Arkeem Byrd. I think we'll get one or two of these guys, but what I like about all of them is that they all have versatility to play somewhere else.
Depth Chart Breakdown
|Position||First String||Second String|
|"Big" A-back||Clinton Lynch OR
So clearly, Tech will have plenty of options (pun fully intended) at A-back next year. Starting with the "Big" A-backs, if Mikell Lands-Davis doesn't move back to B-back, I think this will end up being his job. I think Lynch will be right there competing for it, but I feel Lands-Davis brings a little bit more raw talent to the board. Lynn Griffin served as a capable back-up there last season and should be able to replicate that this year.
At "Small" A-back, Qua Searcy will be the guy to beat. I really would have liked to see what he would have been able to do had he not gotten hurt during the season. Once he gets fully healed, the main thing to watch out for will be how he has healed and if he is at full strength. Assuming he's at full strength, he'll be the guy. His primary back-up, assuming he doesn't move to quarterback, will be TaQuon Marshall. It's a very real possibility that Marshall will be taking snaps in the Spring, so I'm not going to bank on him being the back-up. With Ike Willis, JJ Green and the two freshmen, there will be plenty of guys there to take snaps.
Looking at potential redshirts, I think Jaylend Ratliffe (assuming he moves to A-back), Xavier Gantt and any other freshmen that come in this season will redshirt this season. If case you're wondering where KirVonte Benson is, well, I believe he'll make the transition to B-back this offseason. If he does stay at A-back, though, I think he'll join Lynn Griffin as the back-up at "Big" B-back.