Georgia Tech is having to replace their best player from the past two seasons in running back Jahmyr Gibbs, who transferred to Alabama. The guy to do that might have already been on the roster, but that did not stop head coach Geoff Collins from going out and trying to add to the running back room via the transfer portal to make it more well-rounded.
While Dontae Smith could still wind up being the lead runner in the backfield, he is going to have to beat out two transfers for the starting job. Those guys are Dylan McDuffie, who was an All-MAC selection last season at Buffalo, and Hassan Hall, who had his moments at Louisville over the past few seasons and brings experience.
New offensive coordinator Chip Long puts an emphasis on the running game and will want to use multiple backs to form a formidable ground game. Going back to his days at Notre Dame and most recently at Tulane, Long has used multiple backs to establish a ground game and I expect nothing less at Georgia Tech this season.
So who will have the bigger impact between the two players? First, I think both are going to play plenty for the Yellow Jackets this season. Hall had the benefit of going through spring practice and knows the offense better than McDuffie at this point. McDuffie has more starting experience than Hall. Both players have advantages that could give them the edge.
McDuffie has more experience being the lead back in an offense, which I think is going to give him a leg up for the starting job. While it was against MAC competition, McDuffie carried the ball 206 times for 1,049 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, while averaging 5.1 yards per carry.
Towards the end of the season for the Bulls, McDuffie was getting to where he was carrying the ball for 20 plus times in a game. In five of his last six games, he had 20 carries or more and became the focal point of the offense. He could just be scratching the surface of what he can do.
Hall was always a solid player since he first got to Louisville in 2018, but he never really seemed to break out. He only had one career game where he had over 100 yards, however, and that came this past season against Virginia when he carried the ball 14 times for 162 yards and one touchdown.
Both backs are built similarly as well. Hall stands in at 6'0 204 LBS and McDuffie comes in at 6'0 207 LBS. They are both physical backs and tough to bring down.
To sum things up, I think McDuffie is going to start the season out as the starter at the position, with Hall and Smith being the complementary backs. Tech could decide to use a running back by committee approach, but McDuffie's experience being the lead back and having been a workhorse for a few games at Buffalo is the difference-maker for me.
Expect to see both players get plenty of carries this season for what Georgia Tech hopes is a much-improved ground game, even with the departure of Gibbs.
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