It’s not often you talk about a backup as a potential breakout player. It is not often that a backup is your third leading rusher from the year before. Redshirt Junior Nathan Cottrell is both of those and looks to build on a successful 2017.
In a year where A-back production fell across the board, Cottrell had the most rushing yards (271) and the highest yard per carry (8.1) at the position. Cottrell was also the primary kick returner with 23 attempts for 470 yards, 20.4 yards per return.
Cottrell arrived in 2015 with a reputation for speed. He earned the reputation by running a 4.35 at Tech’s camp as a high school Junior and received and accepted an offer soon after. At fall camp, his performance impressed coaches enough to start conversation about him earning playing time as a freshman.
Unfortunately, he tore an ACL during that fall camp keeping him out the entire 2015 and into the spring of 2016. That fall, Cottrell spent most of the season playing on special teams and ended the season as Georgia Tech’s primary kickoff returner. 2017 was his first year fully back from the injury and his first chance to add reps in the spring.
Cottrell’s greatest strength is his ability to get to the corner and accelerate off his cut downfield. His two longest plays from last season show his ability to get up to speed quickly after turning the corner.
Cottrell takes the pitch on the counter option, puts a foot in the ground, and accelerates downhill.
Cottrell takes a hand off on the A-back counter, puts a foot in the ground, and accelerates downhill.
This ability to accelerate quickly, coupled with the graduation of J.J. Green, and better play from the offensive line will allow Cottrell to improve on his 2017 and set himself up to be the primary A-back for the 2019 season.