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Lynch Integral to Success

By Jim Johnson
SouthernPigskin.com
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Clinton Lynch will be the X-Factor for Georgia Tech in 2018.

Clinton Lynch touched the ball four times in tonight’s exhibition that saw his blue team beat the white team 24-14. That’s fine. Who cares? Paul Johnson doesn’t. It’s a spring game.

He basically said as much. “All in all, it was a success,” Johnson shared. “We didn’t have anyone get hurt too seriously.”

Boring as it may be, that’s a reasonable sentiment. Now, what’s not reasonable is that in 2017, Lynch averaged just 3.1 touches per game.

Granted, the then-junior A-back missed the entirety of Georgia Tech’s 2017 spring practice after undergoing treatment on his knee. He had a clean bill of health entering fall camp, but another unspecified injury prevented him from getting much work in and kept him out of the first game.

Maybe that’s why he didn’t see the ball as much as he should have last year, but it still doesn’t add up as he was, nonetheless, their most efficient ball carrier.

Once he returned for Jacksonville State, he proceeded to average 7.5 yards per carry and gained at least five yards on a team high 53.6% of rushes.

That high water mark opportunity rate was nearly 6% higher than any other back on the squad, with his closest teammate being J.J. Green, who was a senior.

He was back at it again, this evening. On his three rushes he almost averaged a first down per carry, at 9.3 yards with a long of 11.

He also flashed that big play ability that put him on everyone’s radar in 2016, when he was a sophomore and had more plays from scrimmage of 20+ yards than all but five players in the ACC.

That is, of course, in reference to the 33-yard touchdown he caught from redshirt sophomore quarterback Lucas Johnson, who prior to the game had switch teams and take TaQuon Marshall’s spot under center, in blue.

“I talked to TaQuon after the game,” Johnson clarified. “He’s just sick. It’s cool.”

The backup signal caller went on to describe his pass to Lynch, saying, “At first I was sitting on Brad (Stewart [who appeared to be more than capable of filling Ricky Jeune’s role as the big play receiver, catching three passes for 100 yards]), but I saw Clinton get behind Avery (Showell, a redshirt freshman defensive back), and just found him.”

Avery, admittedly looked a little lost on that one, but he shouldn’t feel too bad -- a lot of folks look lost against Lynch.

That’s why he has to be a bigger part of the offense in 2018.

On paper, the Coastal division looks like Miami and then everyone else. However, the games aren’t played on paper, and all it takes is one or two missteps for the whole thing to be blown wide open. At that point, the question becomes, who’s going to fill that void? Virginia Tech could do it. Maybe Duke could do it. Or, perhaps, Georgia Tech could be the team that emerges.

That all depends on what they do offensively. They suffered a ton of personnel attrition on the other side of the ball and are in the midst of switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4, so there will almost certainly be a bit of a learning curve.

The offense, on the other hand, returns nine starters and must carry the brunt of the winning burden, at least in the early going, until the defense can find its footing.

TaQuon Marshall is the engine that makes the whole thing go. The bowling ball that is Kirvonte Benson can help to keep things on schedule. Qua Searcy, Nathan Cottrell, and Jerry Howard are nice complimentary pieces (especially the latter two if they can build on last year in which each of them showed phenomenal flashes in the open field, but need to develop more consistency).

Lynch, though, is the X-Factor. Georgia Tech’s offense will never not be good because of the system. To truly contend in 2018, it must be great. Lynch can make it great.

The senior seemed to be in good spirits after the contest, more in regards to his being fully healthy than anything else. That said, he wasn’t interested in harping on some glorified scrimmage.

Upon being asked to reflect on his final spring as a Yellow Jacket, he simply replied, “I paid my dues here. Now I’m just ready for the season.”

Everyone’s ready for the season. What’s yet to be seen is, if utilized the way he should be, if the season is ready for him.

Jim Johnson - Editor of Southern Pigskin, Producer of "Three & Out", and host of "Explosive Recruiting" on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. E-mail: jim@espncoastal.com Twitter: @JimJohnsonSP