With the losses of Jahmyr Gibbs and Jordan Mason, it seemed like Georgia Tech would be solely relying on Dontae Smith and the incoming freshmen to reload the running back position. After picking up two transfers in Hassan Hall and Dylan McDuffie, however, that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. Out of the three of them, I still have my money on Smith to be the breakout guy here.
In a limited role the last couple seasons, Smith has performed well. He has mostly served as a change of pace back, and there were several times where he was able to show off his agility and burst to get explosive plays. Last season, Smith rushed for 378 yards on 68 carries for four touchdowns. I would expect those numbers to at least double this upcoming season.
Watching the highlights I linked above, there are a couple things that really stand out to me. First is Smith’s initial burst that allows him to beat defenders to the edge. The other thing that stood out is the control and patience he shows in finding (and subsequently bursting through) the hole.
Now what about McDuffie and Hall? Why will Smith be the breakout player over those two?
Of the two, I think McDuffie—as the more established of the two backs—will be the other one seeing major playing time. It also benefits McDuffie that his running backs coach from Buffalo (Mike Daniels) is Georgia Tech’s new running backs coach.
McDuffie impressed last season, rushing for 1,000 yards while averaging more than five yards a carry.
Watching McDuffie’s highlights, I see that McDuffie does have a good initial burst, but I don’t think it’s on the same level as Smith’s. Moreover, we don’t see McDuffie make very many moves while waiting on the hole to appear. Now that could speak more to the level of offensive line prowess, but I digress.
I think McDuffie and Smith will be Tech’s primary running backs this season. I hope to see a lot of two running back sets this Fall. But if I have to pick one of these guys to break out this year, I think the easy answer is Dontae Smith.