ATLANTA -- The Georgia Tech offense will have some changes Saturday, one by necessity and one by choice.
It looks like A-back Orwin Smith, considered by some to be the team’s most explosive offensive player, will not play. Smith missed the second half of the game against Virginia Tech with an undisclosed injury and won’t play Saturday against Duke.
So what does that mean?
Probably not much this week, but Georgia Tech will need Smith back for its final regular-season game against Georgia. Smith has rushed for 570 yards on 53 carries, a 10.8-yard average and has scored 11 touchdowns. He also has caught 12 passes for 286 yards, a 26.8-yard average, and one touchdown.
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Georgia Tech will move Embry Peeples into the starting spot; he has rushed for 330yards and one touchdown but can’t equal Smith as a receiver. Roddy Jones (329 yards, two touchdowns) will start at the other A-Back spot, and Tony Zenon is expected to serve as Peeples’ backup and get a few carries. Deon Hill and Robbie Hodhigh may also get to carry the ball.
“(Tony) has been getting more work; I mean those guys all get reps,” head coach Paul Johnson said. “We’ll just be situational. Embry will probably move up and be the starter and those guys will roll in.”
And while B-back regulars David Sims and Preston Lyons aren’t injured, Johnson said redshirt freshman Charles Perkins is likely to get some looks. He hasn’t rushed the ball since the game against North Carolina. Sims has carried 110 times for 596 yard and four touchdowns and the hard-running Lyons has rushed 38 times for 198 yards and one score. Perkins has carried nine time for 51 yards and one touchdown.
“It hasn’t been the production that we would have liked, but I don’t think it’s necessarily all the B-backs,” Johnson said. “That’s a function of a log of things. It’s the first time I a long, long time in a couple of schools that we haven’t had more production out of that.”
Georgia Tech had Jonathan Dwyer at B-back for the first two years of Johnson’s tenure and had Anthony Allen move into the role last year. Each year, the B-back rushed for more than 1,000 yards.
“I think when it’s all said and done, we’ll look and evaluate and see if we can come to some conclusions,” Johnson said. “I haven’t seen any real gaping holes that they’ve failed to run through. We haven’t had a lot of big plays out of that position. Just off the top of my head, I don’t think we’ve run as many plays as we normally have this year, either.”
Georgia Tech continues to rank third in the NCAA in rushing (319.5 yards) and is 20th in total offense (461.1 yard).
The Georgia Tech defense will be without starting outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu for the first half; he was suspended by Johnson for the first two quarters for his personal foul incurred in the fourth quarter against Virginia Tech. Such a penalty is untimely, as Duke quarterback Sean Renfree is the next in a line of talented opposing quarterbacks.
Renfree threw for 300 yards against Virginia last week, with seven receptions going to Donovan Varner, who became the school’s all-time leading receiver.
Renfree has completed 65.3 percent of his throws for 2,488 yards and eight touchdowns. Varner has 48 catches for 629 yards and Conner Vernon has 59 receptions for 847 yards and five touchdowns. But Duke has had difficulty running the ball. Juwan Thompson leads the Devils with 428 yards and seven touchdowns.
Georgia Tech still has dreams of a 10-win season and could improve its bowl game standing by doing so. The Yellow Jackets are currently in line to appear in the Sun Bowl against a team from the Pac-12.