ATLANTA – Zach Laskey and Synjyn Days endure quite a pounding for Georgia Tech, whether they have the ball or not.
Such is the life of a B-back.
Not that they're complaining. These bruising seniors are a big reason the No. 12 Yellow Jackets will face No. 2 Florida State in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game on Saturday night.
"We take a lot of hits," Days said. "Even when we're not getting the ball, we're getting hit."
In Georgia Tech's run-oriented scheme, Laskey and Days are the guys who line up right behind quarterback Justin Thomas, at what is known at most schools as the fullback position.
Laskey is coming off a career game against Georgia. He rushed 26 times for 140 yards and three touchdowns, including a score in overtime that carried the Yellow Jackets to a 30-24 upset. Days chipped in with 94 yards on 16 carries, providing Georgia Tech's triple-option offense with a devastating 1-2 punch for its inside running game.
"We definitely have similar running styles," Days said. "We're always falling forward. We're always keeping our feet moving and try to get the extra yard. Being seniors, this is our last go-round. We want to leave it all on the field and have no regrets."
Laskey and Days are the first option for Thomas, who can hand off when he sees some space between the tackles. If Laskey or Days gets the ball, they're expected to churn out the tough yards and, occasionally, pop one for a big gain when they get through the initial line of defense.
Even if they don't get a handoff, it's the job of the B-back to look like he has the ball. That lures would-be tacklers toward the middle of the field, freeing up Thomas for an outside run or a pitch to one of the speedy A-backs.
Laskey is Georgia Tech's second-leading rusher with 748 yards and eight touchdowns, impressive numbers considering he missed three games with a shoulder injury. Days, a converted quarterback, is third on the team with 686 yards and three scores, putting together three straight 100-yard games while Laskey was out.
The two have developed a close relationship, on and off the field. Days dubbed them "Ebony and Ivory," a good-natured reference to him being African-American while Laskey is white.
"We both get the same amount of reps in practice," Laskey said. "We challenge each other, push each other, make each other better. We're like brothers out there."
Offensive lineman Shaquille Mason said there are some subtle differences that can throw defenses off, depending on which B-back is on the field.
"Both run hard. Both get the tough yardage that we need it," Mason said. "But they also have some unique things they bring to the table. Zach is more of a hard-nosed guy who can get down the field. Synjyn makes cuts and gets yards that way as well."
While the 218-pound Laskey has been a running back throughout his college career, Days took a more unique path. He spent his first two years as a quarterback and looked to be in line to take over as the starter, but a lack of throwing accuracy led to him being shifted to running back. He spent two years as an A-back, essentially a halfback role, before moving to B-back before his senior season.
At 231 pounds, Days is certainly built for his latest role.
By accepting another position change without complaint before his final season, he showed coach Paul Johnson and all of his teammates just how unselfishness he is.
"I guess coach Johnson saw something in me," Days said. "I'm a bigger-body guy. I'm pretty hard to take down in the open field or in the hole. I usually get at least 2 or 3 yards even if there's nothing there."
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher knows the Seminoles (12-0) must stop the first guy through the line if they're going to have any success containing one of the country's most prolific rushing attacks. Georgia Tech (10-2) is averaging nearly 334 yards per game on the ground.
"They're very effective runners," Fisher said. "You have to hit them very square. They break a lot of tackles."
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