It's been over a week since the Georgia Tech football team began fall camp in anticipation of the Yellow Jackets Sept. 12 season opener at Florida State (Tallahassee, Fla.).
The start of preseason practice signaled what second-year head coach Geoff Collins and his staff hopes foreshadows the Jackets' evident progression and development from last season.
For running backs coach Tashard Choice, he's admired the growth exhibited in Tech's running back unit that has translated into their diligent preparation for the upcoming college football season.
"Last year was a whole new transition getting the guys understanding the offense, the standards and the expectations that I have for my room," Choice told media on Wednesday. "For me, the guys have learned, they understand the protections better, understanding how to work hard every single day. Just the little things make the big things work. Those guys understanding hard is the way. If it's hard, we've got to do it. We've got to do it at a high level, so they're going to have to play at a high clip this year. The guys understand they're going to have to learn and adjust on the fly."
The depth Tech has cultivated in the running backs room was a bright spot during the 2019 campaign as the Jackets' offense worked through the growing pains of learning a new offensive scheme. Running back Jordan Mason was arguably one of the best players for Georgia Tech last season. Earning All-ACC recognition as a RS sophomore, Mason ran for 899 yards and seven touchdowns. As the 2020 football season nears, Mason wants to recreate his on-field production.
"One simple goal I've set with everybody coming back is for me to still be the man this season," Mason said. "Even though we've got people coming in, we've got Jamious [Griffin] coming back, we've got Jahmyr [Gibbs] coming in, we've still got other running backs coming in. It's just my goal to be the man this season."
In limited action last year, Jamious Griffin demonstrated potential to create scoring opportunities. Expected to be back in the Jackets' running back rotation this fall, Griffin said he has made important use of his time since breaking from spring practice.
"I definitely got my pad level right. I also worked on my speed. I feel really good," Griffin said. "I do feel like I'm faster. Over quarantine, I worked with my dad training, getting faster, changing direction. Just working, working, working. It shows up on the field everyday."
Georgia Tech should have plenty of playmakers to watch out of the backfield this year. Returning a strong unit, the quality of running backs is a luxury for Choice.
"Jahmyr [Gibbs] is an animal," Choice said of the four-star running back. "The kid is unbelievable. For him, there's no point in just trying to get him in, he's going to play. He's unbelievable. He works his tail off, very humble. He doesn't say too many words but he competes on the football field.
"I can't tell you how much I have respect for JP [Jordan Mason] and Jamious, Devin Ellison and Dontae [Smith]. Those guys came back in really good shape. Really locked in and understanding their responsibility, expectations and the standards. It's actually been pretty easy to transition from getting back to getting on the football field."
With the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences opting to cancel their fall sports seasons, uncertainty lingers around the possibility of college football happening this year. Whether the ACC continues to move forward with its amended 10+1 football schedule or not, Mason and Griffin are set to begin play.
"Whenever we play, I'm ready to play," Mason said. "I'm ready to put the ball down and play. Regardless of where we go, let me know when and I'll be ready."
"Last year, I got a lot of experience playing, watching JP," said Griffin. "I've got a great feeling this year coming in, knowing everything... If you come out here, you'll see. You'll witness it yourself. We look good. Way better than we were last year. I just can't wait til they tell us we can play, whenever we can play. I can't wait to get on the field with the guys and go all out."
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