When Dedrick Mills was dismissed by Georgia Tech before the season began, there was a lot of discussion and concern.
The prevailing opinion was that the team would struggle without its All-ACC B-back.
Head coach Paul Johnson was the exception. He never fidgeted or fretted — he rarely does — and that probably was because he knew that KirVonte Benson was waiting in the wings.
Benson looked good in the spring game, but it wasn’t until his starting debut against Tennessee that first impressions were confirmed. Benson rushed for 124 yards and one touchdown against the Volunteers and has since had two other 100-yard games —196 yards against Pittsburgh and 130 yards against North Carolina. The performance against Pittsburgh featured the most yardage gained by a B-back in Johnson’s 10-year tenure.
Never miss a local story.
There hardly has been a word mentioned about Mills since.
Benson has a total of 476 rushing yards and four touchdowns. He averages 5.1 yards per carry and has proven to be quite steady. He has broken off two big runs — a 47-yarder for a touchdown against Pittsburgh and a 63-yarder for a touchdown against North Carolina.
The touchdown against the Tar Heels was the game-breaker that put the momentum firmly on Georgia Tech’s side.
“Coach Johnson said to attack the hole, and it’s going to be there,” Benson said. “The linemen did a great job, and I just had to make one guy miss, and that’s exactly what I did, get him off me. Everybody did their job.”
But there’s no question that Benson needs to improve his ball security. He fumbled twice against Pittsburgh and once against North Carolina. He lost the ball on the goal line against the Tar Heels when he tried to hold the ball in front to break the plane.
“My evaluation is don’t ever reach the ball out again, especially on first down,” Johnson said. “It’s not smart, selfish. Having said that, he makes some plays … and missed some blocks. He’s like all of them, he can play better, but he does some really good things. He had 130 yards again, so he’s doing some good things.”
Benson must continue to play at a high level because freshman Jerry Howard is waiting in the wings. Howard had five carries last week for 34 yards and has run for 135 yards and averaged 9.6 yards per carry.
“I’ve got confidence in Jerry,” Johnson said. “He almost broke one the first carry he had (against North Carolina). KirVonte had 18 carries, which is about right for him.”
Johnson also hinted that fans might see Benson and Howard in the backfield together.
“We don’t have anybody to run downhill,” Johnson said. “We may put him and Jerry out there together.”
Gray, Cooper honored by ACC: The ACC has named safety A.J. Gray as its Defensive Back of the Week and center Kenny Cooper as its Offensive Lineman of the Week after last week’s 33-7 win over North Carolina. Cooper anchored an offensive line that rushed for 403 yards last week. He took 10 defenders to the ground in the team’s 76 offensive plays. Gray had two interceptions and four tackles and helped the defense limit North Carolina to 247 total yards, force seven three-and-outs.
Miami kickoff time not set: ESPN has exercised its six-day hold option on the Georgia Tech-Miami game, which will be played Oct. 14. That means the game will start at either noon or 3:30 p.m. and be broadcast by ABC, ESPN or ESPN2.
Georgia Tech at Miami
Noon or 3:30 p.m., Oct. 14
ABC, ESPN or ESPN2