ATLANTA — Jonathan Dwyer is off to the NFL, but Georgia Tech's potent rushing attack might not miss a beat.
Anthony Allen moves over from A-back to the featured B-back position in coach Paul Johnson's spread option offense, and he could be even more of a threat than Dwyer, now a rookie with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Allen averaged 9.7 yard per carry last season and is convinced that figure doesn't have to decline despite the switch and a heavier workload.
"Who says I can't match it," asked the speedy 229-pound senior, breaking into a smile.
Allen had a Louisville record 275-yard rushing effort in 2007 as a sophomore before transferring. He is now at more of his natural position, running from behind the quarterback after playing on the wing last season.
"I think Anthony will have a really good year," Johnson said after Georgia Tech's third practice session. "He's a very talented guy and I think he's excited about moving in there.
"He actually was a B-back when he came here. That's where he first started. So it isn't like he's going back there and trying to learn from scratch."
Allen, from Tampa, Fla., had just 64 carries last season, but gained 618 yards and scored seven touchdowns, one receiving. He broke off an 82-yard TD against Clemson and had a 60-yard run against Florida State.
Dwyer, who declared for the NFL draft after his junior season, carried 235 times a year ago as he repeated the 1,395-yard rushing total that earned him ACC Offensive Player of the Year honors as a sophomore.
"I can't lie. I'm really looking forward to that part," Allen said when asked about the extra touches he'll get at B-back.
A key element in the Georgia Tech offense is the exchange between quarterback and B-back. Joshua Nesbitt missed spring practice because of ankle surgery, but Allen said things are good between them after working on handoffs during the summer.
Although Dwyer left a year early, Nesbitt gives Georgia Tech a senior leader as the Yellow Jackets try to repeat as ACC champions in Johnson's third season as coach.
"You don't have to worry because you know Joshua knows what he is doing and is going to make the right reads," Allen said. "It's real comfortable."
In addition to Dwyer, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, defensive end Derrick Morgan and safety Morgan Burnett left early for the NFL. But the Yellow Jackets list 15 returning starters from a team that finished 11-3 last season. Georgia Tech beat Clemson for the ACC title before losing to Iowa in the Orange Bowl.
Despite the returnees, Georgia Tech was picked to finish third in the ACC's Coastal Division during preseason media voting.
"We're not worried about it," Allen said. "They did the same thing to us last year. We just use it as motivation that people are still looking at us as underdogs. We'll prove 'em wrong again."
"People talk about the players we lost, but I'd rather focus on the 15 starters coming back," Johnson said. "This is the first time since I've been here that we have a large senior class."
The Yellow Jackets will hold their fourth practice on Sunday as they work toward the opener on Sept 4 at home against South Carolina State. Georgia Tech plays at Kansas the next week before opening the ACC season at North Carolina on Sept. 18.
"It's been rough. It's been hot," Allen said of the first three days of practice. "We've been making it happen, though. We're looking good out there. Real good."