ATLANTA — Following a year in which Georgia Tech flew mostly under the national radar, many believe the Yellow Jackets are due to emerge from the shadows this fall and command a bit of the respect.
Playing under head coach Paul Johnson’s option offense in just his first season at Georgia Tech, the Yellow Jackets bucked expectations by storming to a 9-4 finish, beating rival Georgia and appearing in a major bowl game. For a team most believed would have a three- or four-win campaign, the 2008 season was truly a major surprise.
But with Johnson’s second year on the horizon, the country has taken notice of the Yellow Jackets’ instant success. For at least one Georgia Tech player, that type of attention has become a welcomed source of inspiration.
“It’s fun to see that,” junior B-back Jonathan Dwyer said. “It makes you want to work harder each and everyday, and it makes you want to push yourself a little bit more to achieve even better.”
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The bull’s-eye of a white and gold target that has been draped across the Yellow Jackets’ back, Dwyer is the focal point of the Yellow Jackets’ offensive attack.
Last season’s ACC player of the year, the Marietta native wracked up nearly 1,400 rushing yards and scored 12 touchdowns. Averaging 7.0 yards per carry, his was the motor that guided Georgia Tech’s offense last year and led the Yellow Jackets to a slew of big wins.
Now, with the weight of the team resting on the shoulders of the team’s running backs at the start of this spring’s workouts, Dwyer is ready for the season to start so they can to keep the Ramblin’ Wreck running smoothly.
“I wouldn’t say this is going to be just another year. This year is going to be a special year,” Dwyer said. “We have a chance to make some history and shock the world — a lot. We have our name out now, and we have to keep it out there.”
One of Dwyer’s teammates who had a special 2008 season was then-redshirt freshman Roddy Jones. Rushing for 690 yards on just 81 carries last season, Jones scored four touchdowns. Georgia Tech fans likely have just two of those scores in the forefront of their minds. Coming in November’s 45-42 win over rival Georgia, they helped snap a string of seven straight losses to the Bulldogs.
As a sophomore, Jones will team with Dwyer in what has become one of Georgia Tech’s most-experienced and deepest parts of the roster: the backfield.
Joining the tandem will also be juniors Lucas Cox and Anthony Allen. Cox played last season, alternating carries with Jones at the A-back position, while Allen sat the year out because of transfer requirements. Arriving to Georgia Tech from Louisville, Allen rushed for 1,167 yards in two seasons with the Cardinals, appearing in each game the team played while he was there.
With so much experience, Jones said the running backs expect to be seen as team leaders.
“We’ve got some youth on the offensive line now with guys hurt, and we’ve got some inexperience in a few other places, so I think (the team) looks to us as kind of the stability of the offense,” Jones said.