When Paul Johnson first arrived at Georgia Tech critics claimed that the former Navy coach's flexbone offense would struggle adapting to a BCS conference's speed. Some even went as far to say it would never succeed.
But thanks to Jonathan Dwyer Johnson has been able to shake off those skeptics and sleep easy. The Yellow Jacket running back has helped make the unusual formation a resounding success in its first trial run through the ACC.
In his first year of starting duty the sophomore leads the conference in rushing yardage holds six 100-yard rushing games under his belt and has his team at the top of the standings of the Coastal division.
Not too shabby for the player was first known as the replacement for one of the most productive backs in Yellow Jackets' history Tashard Choice. Choice rushed for the fourth-most yardage in school history and was a first team all-ACC selection in 2007.
Dwyer who earned a spot on the All-ACC Freshman team while splitting time with Choice last season has done just about all he can to make the Georgia Tech faithful forget about its departed star.
Dwyer's become the key cog in the triple-option scheme gaining the lion's share of the Ramblin' Wreck's 2181 yards on the ground. Georgia Tech leads the ACC in team rushing yardage by 600 yards and ranks eighth in the country in rushing yards per game.
His numbers would make just about any NCAA running back drool. Dwyer has used his combination of power speed and agility this season to carve up opponents for 899 yards and seven touchdowns. His yards-per-carry stands at 6.5.
Dwyer plays the B-back also known as the dive-back in the wishbone which means he assumes a fullback-type role and receives most of his carries up the middle.
People often compare running backs to thunder or lightning depending on their skill set. But Dwyer's abilities form the rare combination of the two.
At 6-feet 228 pounds he has the size to bulldoze over potential tacklers and grind through holes for tough yardage.
But despite his large frame he possesses the speed of a smaller back and can pull away from tacklers in the open field. He was clocked at4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash when he was coming out of high school.
He has gained weight since his prep days and may have lost a step but his speed still translates favorably at the ACC level.
This thunder and lightning combination wreaks havoc when Dwyer gets to the second level of a defense.
He has broken off long gains with regularity turning in runs 30 yards or more in six of Georgia Tech's nine games. His longest rush of the season an 88-yard scamper came in a Georgia Tech win against Mississippi State.
If he can get through the first level he's capable of ripping off a couple long runs against the Tar Heels.
But for all of Dwyer's skill with the ball in his hands he's not much of a threat to catch passes coming out of the backfield. He has only five catches all season and never more than one in a game though he did take one 79 yards for a score.
The obstacle that stands in Dwyer's way today is UNC's front seven and in particular the linebacking corps of Mark Paschal Quan Sturdivant and Bruce Carter. UNC has posted the fourth-best run defense in the conference so they won't be a pushover for Dwyer and the triple option.
But the Tar Heels will need to wrap up on every tackle of this load of a running back to limit his characteristic long gains.