Yellow Jackets: How far they’ve come

With just two workouts left until Georgia Tech’s T-Day game Saturday, The Telegraph takes a look at how far the Yellow Jackets have come in three distinct areas this spring, and anticipates their various moves there before the start of the fall season:

1. Questions have started being answered about Tech’s next B-back

What they’ve done this spring: This spring, the Yellow Jackets have trotted out a host of players at B-back, looking for one or two to emerge as solid replacements to fill the void left by All-ACC standout Jonathan Dwyer. Slated to be selected in the NFL draft, Dwyer was Georgia Tech’s leading rusher the past two seasons. In addition to sophomore Richard Watson and true freshman Charles Perkins, seniors Anthony Allen and Lucas Cox have been among those getting time at the position this spring. With size and speed, Allen has already run through and around defenders with an effortlessness that seems similar to Dwyer’s running style. Cox has plowed through Georgia Tech’s defense like a bowling ball on the loose.

Where they will be in the fall: When action resumes late this summer, expect Allen to hold on as the starting B-back. Although head coach Paul Johnson began this spring session claiming there was no “anointed” player at the position and that it was anyone’s for the taking, it has become clear that Allen will be leading the group, with Cox coming on as a solid No. 2 player off the bench. Running like a true fullback, Cox has seemed comfortable being back at B-back after a year playing A-back. This fall, Perkins — who likely will not redshirt — probably will be listed instead as an A-back, but may still see action at B-back. He has practiced at both positions.

2. Transition for the defense? What transition?

What they’ve done this spring: After the firing of Dave Wommack this offseason and the hiring of Al Groh as new defensive coordinator, the Yellow Jackets have been forced to completely revamp their defense this spring. To this point, however, it has been rather difficult to tell that they have undergone a massive reinvention process. There has been very little negative change with the switch. With more linebackers than linemen in the new 3-4 scheme, the Yellow Jackets have started playing more aggressively than they had been in recent seasons. In addition to Anthony Egbuniwe, Brad Jefferson and Steven Sylvester making an immediate impact in the secondary, Logan Walls and Jason Peters have been major difference-makers on the line. Constant fixtures in Georgia Tech’s backfield, the two have made hounding quarterbacks and running backs their forte this spring.

Where they will be in the fall: Much of the Yellow Jackets’ defensive makeup from this spring will be seen again when the season begins. Peters, Walls and sophomore Izaan Cross likely will start on the defensive line, while some combination of Albert Rocker and A.T. Barnes will play with the other three at linebacker. Middle Georgia natives Julian Burnett and Brandon Watts could see action as second-teamers at inside linebacker, with the redshirt freshman Watts having a better chance at sneaking into the starting rotation during the season. Also, look for many more blitzes and five-man rushing packages than the Yellow Jackets have showcased in recent seasons.

3. Backup QBs still shaking, but emerging

What they’ve done this spring: There have been several highs and several lows for each of Georgia Tech’s three backup quarterbacks. All of them have had their share of well-thrown passes and perfectly-timed and read option pitches or keepers, and they also have had their share of interceptions, muffed handoffs and poor decisions. But of all the lessons they will have learned, the impact of them likely will not be fully felt until next spring, when each of them has a chance to contend for the starting job following the graduation of current starter Joshua Nesbitt.

Where they will be in the fall: Nesbitt, who has been recovering all spring from offseason ankle surgery, will be back long before summer workouts begin. But the order of those playing behind him might still be in the works when camp resumes. As it stands heading into Saturday’s spring game, junior Tevin Washington, who has played in Johnson’s offense the last two seasons, appears to be the solid No. 2. He has had the most reps in practices there and runs the option much cleaner the other quarterbacks, mainly because of his added experience. Redshirt freshmen Jordan Luallen and David Sims are running neck-and-neck for the third spot, as each has tools that offset the other. Luallen passes better on the run than Sims, but Sims has begun running the option and making better reads in it than Luallen. Expect their battle to persist this fall.