With the departure of Jahmyr Gibbs, Jamious Griffin and Jordan Mason, Georgia Tech running back Dontae Smith should have a huge season with the Yellow Jackets in 2022. He is the only running back on the roster entering the season that has touched the ball in a Georgia Tech uniform. Add in that new offensive coordinator Chip Long from Tulane seems to like running the ball from a spread option standpoint (Tulane quarterback Michael Pratt had 105 rushing attempts last season) and you get a perfect storm set in place for Smith.
While Long seems to like to split touches with running backs, I could see a situation where head coach Geoff Collins sways him in the direction of making sure that Smith gets at least 75% of running back touches throughout the season. Another thing that may swing in Smith’s favor is that Tulane running backs accounted for 55 catches last season while Georgia Tech running backs accounted for 53, but only 13 receptions by backs not named Jahmyr Gibbs. So look for Smith to also make a splash and produce on the receiving end of things as well.
Dontae Smith has been with Collins from the beginning, and I think that a big reason why he stayed was because Collins pretty much guaranteed him the starting running back job come this fall. Although he only carried the ball 68 times for 378 yards last season, Smith averaged 5.6 yards per carry, the best on the team, and four touchdowns, tied for the most on the team. That sense of loyalty to the program is something that will not be overlooked.
While I do expect growth from Jeff Sims in his third year, I really think that the coaches will be in his ear telling him to look for his checkdown receivers more than a normal quarterback would to limit turnovers and try to let his mental awareness grow during the season. Those checkdown receivers most of the time are running backs, and I get the feeling that they have been working on his hands during spring training.
There is a reason that Dontae Smith was put on the Athlon Sports All-ACC preseason football team, and that reason is the huge upside that a lot of Georgia Tech fans and I are ready to see come September.
Season Stats Prediction: 157 rushes for 706 yards, 32 receptions for 275 yards