Paul Johnson Must Evolve For Georgia Tech Football To Turn Season Around

By Shannon Sickmon
Paul Johnson with QB Justin Thomas
Getty Images

When Georgia Tech is having a good game, it epitomizes all that is great about college football — speed, depth, and a beautiful passing game. Unfortunately, good games have been thin on the ground this year for the Jackets.

I know it seems like I am picking on Tech, but I genuinely like the Jackets and they have ticked me off. Coach Paul Johnson seems like a one-trick pony. He needs to realize quickly that the triple-option isn’t working and try something new before the rest of the season is more of a debacle. Johnson is the impetus behind Tech’s epic collapse, and whether he will be the key to its success remains to be seen.

This is the way I see it. Maybe Tech was resting on its laurels after last season. This year the team has regrettably gone from Ramblin’ Wreck to train wreck with three losses already and little chance of a berth in the ACC Championship. Turnovers, missed opportunities and failure to convert has been a trend in the last three games.

Tech also has a marked tendency to implode after the first half. In the game against UNCthe Jackets blew a 21-point lead by rolling over in the second half. The Tar Heels scored 24 points in the second half to win the game by a touchdown. The last three games have shown the obvious gaps in Tech’s offense. They have struggled to run the option, which is the entire basis of its program. Therefore, the program needs to adapt, which is unlikely with Johnson at the helm.

Johnson is a tough and intelligent coach, but he is not noted for his flexible nature.

The other issue with the option offense is that opposing defenses have obviously decoded Johnson’s scheme. The current Tech offense, particularly without the injured A-backs, isn’t strong enough to cover the holes in the team’s defense. Tech’s receivers have not created any space for QB Justin Thomas, and the blocking has been pedestrian at best.

The short yardage game has been terrible, as the Jackets are averaging less than 1.5 yards per play and have converted only 5 of 12 tries. At this same time last year, they were converting 80 percent. In short, Johnson’s players cannot execute their signature offense.

Johnson’s recruiting also needs to be called into question. Granted, Tech’s academic standards are rigorous and the school has limited financial resources for their athletic program. When compared to the deep pockets of in-state rival University of Georgia, Tech’s finances seem particularly meager. Johnson knew these limitations when he took the coaching position, yet he has not changed his recruiting style to reflect the vagaries of Tech’s program.

For example, UGA was the first to approach Trenton Thompson, the USA Today Defensive Player of the Year for 2014. UGA began talking to Thompson as early as his sophomore year. As a result, Thompson signed with the Bulldogs and has been an asset to the program. It is true that Johnson spoke with Thompson, but it was too late. Johnson needs to stop recruiting for his option offense and start recruiting with complete football team in mind.

Tech can still resuscitate its season. A win against Clemson this Saturday could be the boost the flailing program needs. After all, the Jackets lost two games last year and came back to win the ACC Coastal Division and their bowl game. That was last year, though. Tech needs to try some different styles of play if they want to succeed.

This depends on Johnson, who needs to check his ego and evolve. If not, Tech will never be a playoff contender.

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