ATLANTA — Broderick Snoddy is Georgia Tech’s only current running back who ran for more than 18 yards last season.
That doesn’t mean Snoddy’s status as a starter was a certainty entering preseason practice.
Snoddy’s 2014 season ended when he broke the fibula and tibia in his left leg in a Nov. 15 victory over Clemson. Snoddy missed spring practice while recovering from the horrific injury, which left his leg bent between his knee and ankle. He was carted off the field after being surrounded by the entire Georgia Tech team.
Nine months later, Snoddy still has the support of teammates who realize the importance of his return.
“Just him being out there is a good part of our offense,” quarterback Justin Thomas said Saturday. “Just seeing him do the things that he’s doing is great.”
One week into preseason practice, Snoddy said he has proved he can make cuts and take hits.
“I feel very well and confident,” Snoddy said after the team’s first preseason scrimmage. He said the last step of his recovery was “more mental than physical.”
Snoddy said he gained confidence in a seven-on-seven drill early in practice.
“I got to change directions, stick it in the ground and cut back,” he said. “After that, I got a little more confident.”
Thomas led the spread-option offense with 1,086 yards rushing — a team record for quarterbacks. Backup quarterback Tim Byerly and Snoddy are the only other returning players among the Yellow Jackets’ top 12 rushing leaders in 2014.
A healthy Snoddy is a key for Georgia Tech, which led the nation in rushing last season. Snoddy had a 46-yard run, the longest of his career, in the Clemson game and was averaging 10.1 yards per carry for the season.
“I think when Broderick got hurt last year he was playing his best football of his career,” coach Paul Johnson said Saturday. “He was really valuable as a ball carrier.
“Broderick has always had to work at doing some of the other things well. Just be consistent and get him back to where he was because he was really a weapon at the time that he got hurt. He has great speed and was breaking a lot of tackles. Hopefully we can get him back to that point.”
Snoddy (5-fooi-9, 190 pounds) ran for 283 yards and three touchdowns in 10 games last season. He also competes in track and set the school record in the 60-meter dash in 2013.
Johnson likes to rotate his running backs, so he’s looking for new names to share the carries with Snoddy. Johnson moved third-string quarterback Matthew Jordan to A-back this week.
“He understands the offense,” Johnson said of Jordan. “He’s a tough, physical guy. He’s a good runner. So we’re going out there and see if he’s going to adjust.”
Qua Searcy (5-11, 167), who was held out last season as a redshirt, already has impressed Johnson.
The option offense includes two A-backs, who line up spread out, and one B-back, who lines up behind the quarterback. Searcy and Jordan are competing with Snoddy at A-back.
“He’s very athletic,” Johnson said of Searcy. “He’s good with the ball. He’s a good receiver. He’s got to work on some other facets and get better. Qua is going to play a bunch. He’s definitely going to be in the A-back rotation.”
Among the running backs who must be replaced: Synjyn Days, Zach Laskey, Charles Perkins and Tony Zenon.
After Snoddy, the next running back on the list of returning rushing leaders is junior Isiah Willis, who had only two carries for 18 yards last year.