For the first time under coach Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech is in search of its next 1,000-yard rusher.
And with the spring game looming on Saturday, the Jackets are still looking.
In what is easily the most wide-open competition of the spring in Atlanta, redshirt freshman Charles Perkins, former quarterback David Sims, redshirt senior Preston Lyons and redshirt junior Richard Watson are all trying to prove they can be the every-down back. All four players have a legitimate shot and that competition will likely extend into August. In past seasons under Johnson, the biggest question at B-back was who was going to be the backup to Jonathan Dwyer and Anthony Allen.
“It’s good competition every year,” said Watson. “The guys who were here before were a little more experienced, obviously, but the competition is always pretty wide open. It’s always competitive.”
All four combined for 31 carries in 2010.
Lyons, who transferred to Georgia Tech from Colgate, joined the program as a walk-on and was awarded a scholarship last August. He has played in 21 games. He’s strong, a good blocker and excels in short-yardage situations. He has also showed the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Lyons was one of the biggest surprises of 2009 when he climbed to No. 2 on the depth chart behind Dwyer.
Watson has been in the shadows of Dwyer and Allen as a reserve and special-teams player each of the past two seasons. He played in all 13 games last year, but only had 10 carries for 32 yards.
Sims, who was recruited as a quarterback, said he wasn’t disappointed in the move. He played in five games last year and had seven carries for 58 yards and one touchdown.
“Me and Coach are on the same page,” he said. “Anything I can do to play, get on the field, I was willing to make that move.”
Sims said he’s had to become more physical because he knows he’s going to have to hit or be hit on every play.
“The positive is playing quarterback I know where I’m going,” he said. “The hard part has been learning how to get there, whether it be blocking or running my track, running with pad level and everything like that, but for the most part it’s been pretty good.”
Perkins is a redshirt freshman who has learned both the B-back and A-back positions.
“Everybody brings their own good qualities,” Watson said. “If I were a coach I think I would have difficulty trying to separate who does what better and where everybody should go. That’s not our job, we just come out and play.”
None of them know yet, though, who will play more.