The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets have watched their relevance in the ACC and college football in general wane over the last several years. There are plenty of likely reasons for their dip, but the biggest is probably their struggles on the recruiting trail. Simply put, Paul Johnson isn’t equipped for modern-day college football recruiting.
First and foremost, Johnson is committed to the triple-option, an offensive scheme that is considered a “gimmick” which rarely attracts college football’s elite talent. The triple-option makes sense for the Navy Midshipmen and Army Black Knights because as service academies, they are heavily restricted in the players they can bring in. Georgia Tech chooses to run this old-school offense, however, despite less restrictive recruiting requirements.
There was a time when the triple-option had a role in recruiting. Before the rest of college football had embraced the athletic prospects who maybe didn’t have prototypical football skills, teams that ran the triple-option could utilize those athletes and be successful. Now with offenses designed by minds like Urban Meyer and Chip Kelly, athletes are integral parts of the major programs, making it harder for the triple-option teams to snag them.
The bigger issue, however, may be that Johnson just doesn’t understand what it takes to recruit in college football these days. Talking to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Johnson lamented the current state of recruiting:
“Yes, I’ve thought about having visits the last weekend, but you shouldn’t really have to do that. When the kid and his parents come and they look you in the eye and give you their word, it ought to mean something. It really ought to.”
Johnson was responding to the woeful recruiting class Georgia Tech signed in 2013 where they failed to get a single four-star recruit and watched several of their verbal commits flip to other schools in the days leading up to National Signing Day.
It would be nice if recruiting still worked that way, but it would also be nice to get a gallon of gas for 35 cents. Neither is going to make a comeback, though. College football recruiting has become a cutthroat business populated by sharks looking to do whatever it takes to sign guys to their team. Paul Johnson, clearly, is not that kind of shark.
And Georgia Tech has suffered for it. Traditionally an ACC power, Tech needed a waiver to go to a bowl game last season after going 6-7 and making the ACC title game because the two teams ahead of them were ineligible for the postseason.Though they finished the season with a win in the Sun Bowl, 7-7 is not a season to put in the history books.
The Jackets have fallen way behind the Clemson Tigers, Florida State Seminoles or even the Miami Hurricanes when it comes to recruiting. These days, they’re on par with the lower tier of the conference like the Boston College Eagles, Duke Blue Devils and Wake Forest Demon Deacons as a member of the “also-ran” group of the ACC.
Whether its a new coach or a new recruiting philosophy, something has to change for Georgia Tech to remain competitive. For now, they just stand on the sidelines as the college football arms race rages on without them.