The old adage that you can predict the future by looking toward the past is once again in vogue with Georgia Tech football this season. Or is it! My recollection was back in 2008 the college football media consensus was that with the recent hiring of Coach Paul Johnson from Navy and his triple option offense, the immediate future on the Flats was going to be dim at best with possibly 3 wins in his first season. The reasoning behind this bold statement was that it will take time for Paul Johnson to recruit players in order to make his offense work. That is if it will even work at all in a BCS Conference. Sound familiar?
So after winning two ACC Coach of the year awards in his first three seasons on the Flats along with the 2009 ACC Championship (NCAA be damned), the newest propaganda being pumped out has evolved into this; “Paul Johnson’s success his first two seasons can easily be explained away because he inherited outstanding talent from the prior administration. Now it remains to be seen if he can recruit players to duplicate that success given all of those victories were achieved with players he didn’t bring into the program.” Talk about moving the goalposts! So after the naysayers spread the fear that caused several players to leave the Georgia Tech program shortly after Paul Johnson was hired as they weren’t triple option material, it is puzzling how any success was derived with the remaining players on those 2008 and 2009 squads under Paul Johnson.
Perhaps it was a fluke? Or better yet my all time favorite; “wait until year # 2 as once the teams have seen this offense a second time they will know how to defend it and it will be stopped in its tracks.” The numbers and wins speak for themselves as it is obvious that Paul Johnson can coach football. The only concern that I have observed in Paul Johnson’s first few seasons is that due to personnel limitations he inherited, we have taken some lumps in games against larger opponents especially in the trenches. He has been fixing that problem in his recruiting the past two seasons, and moving forward I don’t see that as an area of concern as it was in the past.
What I have seen in the Yellow Jackets since Paul Johnson has arrived, is a continuing progression of bigger players being recruited to play on the offensive line. While two time all ACC center Sean Bedford was outstanding in his performance both on and off the field while winning the very first “NCAA walk on award”, it is intriguing to see how this triple option will finally perform with some larger folks in the trenches, especially in the interior A and B gaps known as the Bermuda Triangle.
In conjunction with this transition let’s not forget the enormous efforts put forth by all of those players who stayed within the program and gave Coach Paul Johnson a chance to succeed early with his triple option offense. Kudos go out to such hard working players as Brad Sellers who played outstanding football as a 255 Lbs. tackle going against some very high NFL DE draft picks, as did Austin Barrick at the other tackle spot who tipped the scales only slightly heavier. Not to mention, who can forget his tackle eligible swing pass for a first down in the 2008 win at Athens in Paul Johnson’s first game of clean old fashioned hate. Thank you one and all for staying put and leading the way for future players to enroll at the Institute for their college of choice.
What Paul Johnson and his staff have moved into the current offensive line replacing the foregoing personnel are center Jay Finch 6′ 3″ 285 Lbs.; guard Omoregie Uzzi 6′ 3″ 300 Lbs.; guard Will Jackson, 6; 4″ 285 Lbs.; tackle Phil Smith, 6′ 5″ 295 Lbs.; and either Ray Beno, 6′ 2″ 290 Lbs.; or Tyler Kidney, 6′ 3″ 265 Lbs. at the other tackle position. Mr. Uzzi was a second team all ACC performer last season at guard, and Will Jackson was a freshman All American also at guard. All of these listed offensive linemen were recruited by Coach Paul Johnson and his staff, dispelling the notion that he cannot recruit bigger offensive linemen for the triple option.
By the way, Georgia Tech led the nation in rushing offense last season despite concurrently leading the country in unforced fumbles too. I’m looking to improve on those numbers offensively this season (eliminating the turnovers) as we should be able to pass the ball better now that there is some additional experienced beef in the trenches giving Tevin Washington more time to throw. Tevin will be the starting quarterback and my hunch is that everyone will see that his sudden change game experience from last year when Joshua went down will be paying off in game time dividends this season. He did quite well executing the offense considering the unfortunate circumstances that brought him off the bench in that Thursday night game at Blacksburg.
When you boil it all down everything that could go wrong did go wrong last season for the Yellow Jackets. My hunch is that many lessons were learned and should be preventable in the upcoming campaign. What is most compelling heading into this season is that we were our own worst enemy last year as reflected in losing the turnover battle in just about every game other than against Middle Tennessee State. We will find out shortly just how motivated this team will be on September 1, 2011 when they open play against Western Carolina on a Thursday night at BDS. I find the schedule to be somewhat favorable for the Jackets this season as we do have the Coastal Division favorites Hokies and Tar Heels at Bobby Dodd. While the road trip to Miami is always an adventure, the current turmoil in their program might have a toxic effect making that a very winnable game on on the schedule.
With all the talk of FSU being favored to win the ACC Atlantic Division and possibly the conference, and of course the everlasting media darling Virginia Tech in the Coastal Division, in reality this conference is pretty much wide open as I see it this season. With the turmoil at North Carolina and now the revelations at the “U”, Georgia Tech is poised to make a run this year in the Coastal despite everyone picking them either at or near the bottom in the division. While I am loath to make a specific number of wins for this team, I certainly see them doing substantially better than the current dungeon destination the rest of the media is predicting.
While everyone expects the defense to improve in year two under Al Groh, I’m confident that they most certainly will. I’m excited to see the 3/4 this season now that the players have had an opportunity to better understand not only the format, but the philosophy of how it works when it’s executed properly. What everyone also conveniently forgets about this unit from last season, was not only did they retool the entire scheme, but also had their two best players leave early for the NFL. Both Derrick Morgan and Morgan Burnett were drafted very high and made the rosters of Tennessee and Green Bay respectively before they were lost for the year with injuries.
Given those two factors alone, it is understandable the growing pains that took place last year on that side of the football. Now if we follow along with the same outdated drivel being promulgated about the Paul Johnson triple option offense, and now insert in its stead the Al Groh 3/4 defensive scheme, then the same old worn out and equally lame excuse can be plugged in on the defensive side of the football given that these two standout players were recruited by the prior administration. Marching right along down that same tired path the discussion becomes even more idiotic by concluding that; “they most certainly didn’t want to play in a 3/4 scheme and that hastened their early departure from the Flats.” Are you starting to see a pattern here?
In a nutshell, expect the Yellow Jackets to compete for another Coastal Division Title this season on the Flats. While everyone out there is openly predicting another miserable season for Georgia Tech, they fail to see the hidden benefits that arose after the injury to Joshua Nesbitt with Tevin Washington being forced to operate this offense under very tough circumstances. That will pay off this season for the offense. By the way, isn’t Virginia Tech replacing a four year starter at quarterback named Tyrod Taylor with some player who has next to no game experience and was recruited as a TE? It looks like when you’re the media darling none of that stuff matters, only if you’re Georgia Tech! Go Jackets!