Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Georgia Tech still looking for separation in loaded backfield
By Heather Dinich
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Georgia Tech B-back Preston Lyons grew up in Atlanta just three or four exits up the highway from Georgia Tech. In fact, he was closer to the Jackets' campus than he was his own high school, the Marist School. Lyons, a redshirt sophomore who had been going to Tech games his whole life, was offered a spot on the roster as a preferred walk-on, but he chose to try something new and went to Colgate for a year, where he was a walk-on in 2007.
Now he's back, and he's one of about a dozen running backs competing for playing time this summer.
Georgia Tech fans know who Jonathan Dwyer is, but not even the coaching staff knows right now who his backup will be, or how the depth chart will shake out at A-back. Two of the players who are in the mix for playing time -- Lyons and Anthony Allen -- are transfers who sat out last season and are eager to get back on the field.
"I've got some good guys in this group with me," said Allen, who transferred from Louisville. "There's 12 of us, and we go balls to the wall every play, we try to be the 12 toughest guys on the field, so the competition is real intense, but I hope I come out on top."
When asked how bad he wanted to get back on the field after sitting out 2008 because of NCAA transfer rules, Allen said: "It's like they're holding a piece of meat over my head. They've got me chained to the ground, and I'm trying to get it."
The good problem for the Jackets is he's not the only one.
"It's real exciting," said Lyons, who is competing with Richard Watson to backup Dwyer. "We've got a bunch of good guys in our backfield, and I haven't played in a while, so I'm definitely hungry and excited to get back out there and start playing again."
Lyons was on the scout team last year, so this was his first spring going through the offense while competing for a spot on the two-deep. Considering Dwyer has so much talent around him, it's possible he actually gets more time to rest and less carries this year, which leads Lyons to believe Dwyer's backup would have a "pretty realistic" shot at seeing some playing time.
There's no better player to learn from than the ACC's reigning player of the year.
"He's really helpful to me," Lyons said of Dwyer. "He's been helping me with different schemes and techniques. It's really nice being able to watch such a good player like him."
At the A-back position, there are about five or six players competing for two spots. Roddy Jones, who made a name for himself last season with 311 rushing yards over the last two regular-season games, will probably be listed as questionable for the season opener after dislocating his wrist lifting weights in June. He's been limited to non-contact this whole month, but it's possible he might finally get his cast off this week.
In addition to Jones and Allen, Lucas Cox, Embry Peeples, Marcus Wright and Orwin Smith are all still competing for starting jobs.
"I'm a lot more comfortable," said Allen. "I'm light years ahead of where I was at the beginning of spring. I'm feeling pretty confident right now in my reads, my counts and my ability on the field right now. Hopefully it carries over to game time."
Regardless of how much he plays, Lyons wants to win, and he said he's in the right offense to do that.
"I think this is home for me," Lyons said. "I think I found a spot and I'm definitely satisfied with where I am. I'm happy."