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The incoming coaching staff at Georgia Tech has brought a new offensive system. Along with the switch to a spread attack has come the need for players to learn a new position, even if they were regulars under the old regime. That includes seniors like Nathan Cottrell.
Cottrell is being asked to move from playing A-back in the old triple option to a slot receiver in the new spread attack.
The switch makes a lot of sense. Cottrell isn’t the biggest guy (5-11, 190), but he has excellent speed and quickness. Now it’s up to him to make the transition this spring and show the new staff that he deserves to be in the mix.
“It’s a big adjustment for Nate,” said receivers coach Kerry Dixon. “He played A-back, which is a little different than being a receiver.”
Cottrell has had a solid career at Georgia Tech. He was in line to play running back as a true freshman when he hurt his knee on the eve of the season. He came back to play 11 games in 2016, mostly on special teams, and has been a big contributor the last two seasons. As a sophomore he rushed for 271 yards and as a junior he rushed for 362 yards (7.9 yards per carry) and four touchdowns. He caught three passes for 12 yards in 2018.
Cottrell is enjoying the transition — he just wants to play — but the Knoxville, Tennessee, native admitted he has worked through the growing pains.
“I get frustrated with myself, but the coaches are pushing me every day to get me better,” Cottrell said. “I’m learning as much as I can, watch as much film as I can, getting out there as much as I can and trying to get as many reps as possible.”
The biggest obstacles, according to Cottrell and Dixon, is his ability to get in and out of breaks. As an A-back he spent a lot of time focused on downfield blocking and running with an occasional pitch. In the spread offense, he lines up in the slot and must be ready to block or get open to receive a pass.
“It’s foreign to me, but I’m going to keep pushing myself as hard as I can to improve in that area,” he said. “Just be able to contribute as much as I can.”
Cottrell is all-in on the transition. He has watched hours of film and takes advantage of the app that’s available on his smartphone.
“I’m trying to learn as much as I can at slot,” he said. “Maybe I get thrown in at running back. I’m not sure what the plan is right now. I’m just doing what I can.”
Dixon admires the way Cottrell has gone about learning the new position and wants to see him succeed.
“He’s a very heady guy, he’s extremely smart and he wants to get better,” Dixon said. “He attacks the meetings, he attacks everything we do. That’s one thing I admire about him and I’m glad he’s coming along.”