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Jackets Dwyer fine in the shadow of another Georgia runner
Georgia Tech running back Jonathan Dwyer fends off Mississippi State’s K.J. Wright during the first quarter of last Saturday’s game in Atlanta. Tech won 38-7. - photo by John Bazemore

ATLANTA - There's more than one big, fast, high-scoring sophomore running back in Georgia, even if few outside the state have noticed.

If Georgia's Knowshon Moreno has been the prime-time star in September, then Georgia Tech's Jonathan Dwyer has been a mid-day warm-up act.

But what a warm-up act.

Dwyer already has three 100-yard games for Georgia Tech (3-1). He has 389 yards rushing with four touchdowns while averaging 8.1 yards per carry.

He's the go-to back in coach Paul Johnson's spread option offense and a reason Georgia Tech could be a surprise in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Moreno's dramatic vault over a Central Michigan defender and hurdle into the end zone at Arizona State have been hits on highlight shows. He was on the covers of national magazines before the season as Georgia was No. 1 in the preseason polls, and the No. 3 Bulldogs have kept the national attention with back-to-back Saturday night games against Arizona State and Alabama.

Dwyer and the unranked Yellow Jackets, who are off this weekend, haven't made it to prime time yet. Georgia Tech will play Duke on ESPNU next week in its second straight noon kickoff.

Georgia Tech defensive end Michael Johnson says Moreno is "very good" but he says Dwyer ranks among the best backs in the nation.

"No bias or anything, Jon Dwyer is one of the top running backs in the country," Johnson said. "He's been like that since he first got here. He works hard, he plays hard, he brings that excitement and energy.

"Knowshon Moreno brings that same type of excitement and energy, watching him play. I like that about him. But Dwyer, you're talking about someone 6-foot-1 and 235 and just blazing fast. That's a tough combination of power and speed and he's not arrogant about it or anything. He's humble and works hard and just goes out and does his job."

Dwyer says he's doesn't worry about running in Moreno's shadow.

"No, I've never really thought about that," Dwyer said. "I don't usually think about stuff like that. I just take each game one week at a time and just enjoy playing college football and try to help my team win every week. As long as we win the ACC championship, that's fine with me."

Dwyer showed his speed when he set a school record for longest run from the line of scrimmage with an 88-yard touchdown against Mississippi State last Saturday. He had 141 yards rushing on only nine carries in the 38-7 win.

The strong start is not a surprise. Dwyer, from Kell High in Marietta, was a top recruit who rushed for 436 yards and nine touchdowns as a freshman while playing behind Tashard Choice last season.

When Georgia Tech hired Paul Johnson, Dwyer was viewed as a perfect fit for the spread option.

Before the season he said he viewed Adrian Peterson, a star for Johnson at Georgia Southern who now plays for the Chicago Bears, as the B-back to emulate.

So far, so good.

"Adrian was a great player," Johnson said. "He's the prototypical guy you're looking for."

What about the comparison?

"They're both very talented," Johnson said.

"Jon is probably faster than A.P., and he's a little bigger."

More comparisons may come later in the season, but Johnson already is ready to heap more praise on the sophomore.

"I think Jon has really matured since we got here," Johnson said. "There's no question. My hat is really off to him. Not just with football but with school and everything, he's really done a good job. He's become a leader."

On a young Georgia Tech offense, Dwyer has to lead.

"He practices hard every day," Johnson said. "He doesn't take plays off. He's always supporting, always encouraging and he holds himself to a pretty high standard. And when you do that and you have results, then people will listen to you."

Freshman quarterback Jaybo Shaw, a Flowery Branch graduate, said Dwyer showed his leadership when starting quarterback Josh Nesbitt left the Mississippi State on the opening drive with a hamstring injury. Shaw's nerves showed when he walked into the huddle as the fill-in quarterback.

"He helped me when I came in the game," Shaw said. "He knew, I guess, what it was like for me. He'd been there playing as a freshman and had been in that kind of fire in the game. He just looked at me and said ‘It's going to be cool. We do this every day in practice. Just calm down and we're here right behind you.'"

Shaw did not commit a turnover as Tech finished with 500 yards, but he gave credit to Dwyer.
"It's real easy to play quarterback when you've got him right behind you," Shaw said.
"All you have to do is just give it to him. He makes you look good."

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