Neither team is ranked nationally, but the Atlantic Coast Conference value of the Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech showdown is not lost on a pair of Yellow Jackets from Jefferson County.
“Ever since they started going to divisions, only two teams have ever represented the Coastal in the ACC Championship – Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech,” B.J. Bostic said. “I think this is a crucial game and everyone is excited about the opportunity that awaits us. We just looking forward to going out there and playing with a lot of passion to get us on top in the Coastal.”
Bostic, a redshirt junior starting A-back, and Chris Crenshaw, a redshirt senior backup at defensive end, have never been on the active roster when Georgia Tech has beaten the Hokies. The last time that happened was in 2009.
So Thursday night’s matchup at Bobby Dodd Stadium marks a chance to establish the ACC’s new Tech base of power in Atlanta.
“This game is really big,” Crenshaw said. “We haven’t beat them yet but we’ve been really close these last two years. We’re just looking to get over that.”
Bostic and Crenshaw – second cousins – both played big roles in establishing Jefferson County as a regular contender in a football-rich state. They were “like brothers” at the Louisville, Ga., school but made independent choices to go to Georgia Tech. Along with starting linebacker Brandon Watts from Washington County – the Yellow Jackets’ leading tackler this season – they give Georgia Tech a strong local flavor.
Bostic was an offensive superstar at Jefferson County, named The Augusta Chronicle’s Player of the Year in 2009 when he accounted for 2,600 total yards and scored 39 touchdowns either passing, rushing, receiving or returning as he led the Warriors to the state’s Class AAA quarterfinals.
As a true freshman at Georgia Tech, he served as the team’s primary kickoff returner averaging 20.5 yards in 28 returns. But he missed the entire 2011 season with a fracture in his right hand and thumb.
“I look at it as being a blessing in disguise,” Bostic said of what turned into a redshirt season. “This year would have been my last season so I’ve got two more seasons. Actually I’ll be more developed and more into the playbook and it will benefit me in the future.”
Bostic has adjusted to a less high-profile role even as one of the Yellow Jackets’ starting A-backs.
“We’ve got 13 guys so you’ve got to really be unselfish,” Bostic said of the A-back rotation in Paul Johnson’s triple-option offense. “Because sometimes you might get the ball and sometimes you might block, so we rotate a lot during the game. You can have no touches one game and then the next game be the leading rusher and have 10 touches. It just depends on how the game goes and how Coach Johnson calls the plays. So you’ve got to be real unselfish and be a team player.”
That’s fine with Bostic, who requested the more focused role and worked hard on his blocking points to earn more significant playing time on offensive snaps. He’s rushed nine times for 51 times in three games, starting the past two.
The A-back role – which tends to go to the quicker, shiftier backs who can get to the edge as opposed to the more power-oriented B-backs between the tackles – suits Bostic’s versatility well since he can rush, block or line up as a slot receiver. He expects a bigger night Thursday if the Jackets can clean up the edge game better than they did against North Carolina.
“Once we seal it, this week we’re going to get the real deal on the perimeter and see some nice runs on the edge,” he said. “So I’m looking forward to Virginia Tech and having a strong performance.”
Crenshaw hopes for a better performance as well. As a backup defensive end, he didn’t play against North Carolina after registering a half-sack against Duke the week before. He played in 13 games last year and hopes to make more of impression the rest of his senior season as the defense makes a bigger name for itself under new coordinator Ted Roof.
“I’ve still got a ways to go and I’ve just got to limit my mental mistakes,” Crenshaw said. “We’ve got seniors at every position and everybody’s been stepping up. If we step up, we can take it all the way to the ACC Championship and be a good defense. ... I want to go out on top.”
Virginia Tech marks the third of four consecutive games against ACC Coastal foes. Next week comes a major test against No. 15 Miami.
For the Yellow Jackets – picked to finish fourth in the division by the ACC media – the next two games will go a long way to defining the season. Even bigger games against No. 3 Clemson and No. 9 Georgia loom in November.
“I love the way the schedule has shaped up for us because it makes us bring our A-game and play to a significant level. If we come out hard and win these games it can set us up so perfectly,” Bostic said.
Said Crenshaw: “It will be challenging for us because every week its getting bigger and bigger. It’s just making us work more and live up to who we’re playing.”
Five of the six games the Jackets lost last year are against opponents they face in the next eight weeks.
“Our coach loves for us to be overlooked and we love it, too,” Bostic said. “We love proving everybody wrong. Once again we try to be relevant. We go from being irrelevant to relevant once you start winning games and proving yourself. Then they want to write and talk about you, but all along we know what we are capable of.”
“Each year they pick us last or fourth and we just keep going and every time we keep winning we’re just going to put it in their face,” Crenshaw said.
It starts Thursday night with the annual Coastal barometer – Virginia Tech.
“When they come against us they’re going to bring 100 percent their best effort because of the rivalry and any time you play that game it’s gonna be a big game,” Bostic said. “We can’t overlook them. We’re going in really motivated and ready.”