Can Paul Johnson take the Jackets to the next level?
On Friday we began our ACC roundtable discussion by talking about Florida State and whether or not this would be their year. Yesterday, we discussed which teams outside of the “usual suspects” have a chance to step up and challenge for the ACC crown. Now it’s time for the third and final round of our ACC roundtable. In addition to the usual contributors here at College Football Zealots (myself, Jay and Pete) we have also gathered some of the best ACC writers on the web. Joining us for our ACC roundtable is Adam Tolliver from the FSU based site Unconquered Noles. In addition to Adam, we have not one but two Clemson writers as Cory Fravel and Jody Whitt from Cemetery Hill also join us.
Feel free to chime in down below in the comments section or you can shoot us an e-mail at collegefootballzealot at gmail.com. If there is a question you would like to see discussed you can also leave it in the comments, shoot us an e-mail or hit us up on Twitter or Facebook.
QUESTION: Has Paul Johnson reached his ceiling at Georgia Tech?
Adam Tolliver: I’m not sure that GT has reached their pinnacle with Paul Johnson, but I do feel he needs to adjust his recruiting philosophy is he’s going to take things any further. His policy of pulling scholarships from kids who take interest in other schools isn’t one that a school like Georgia Tech can afford to engage in. In the long run, it burns bridges with high school coaches and ultimately can cause them to miss out on players that they do not necessarily have to. This is an issue that Johnson needs to be aware of in my opinion, because the Yellow Jackets are already not considered one of the more talent rich rosters in the conference. FSU, Clemson, UM, Maryland and VT all definitively recruit more gifted athletes on a yearly basis and NC State could probably be thrown into that group as well. A dynamic QB can mean the world for Georgia Tech, as we saw with Josh Nesbitt. Perhaps that is something they have in Vad Lee. Only time will tell.
Cory Fravel: Simple answer: YES. Coach Johnson inherited a lot of talent from Gailey at GT. Most of the players Johnson has had success with he didn’t recruit. Johnson is smug, arrogant and defiant when questioned on his recruiting practices. For GT and Johnson to be successful he will have to develop lesser talent, smaller DL and OL and beat more athletic Clemson and VT. Johnson also has to figure out away not to lose to UNC or UVA. For Johnson to succeed he needs to recruit better on both lines and find a better way to pass the ball. The bottom line is the talent Johnson has now is not on par with what Gailey brought in which means he’ll have to have breaks to reach the levels he started with at GT.
Jay: Not necessarily. I guess it just depends on how we’re defining “peak” here. Is Georgia Tech ever going to win a national championship running the triple option? No. Even if GT should get to the BCS title game, any strong AQ-conference team that gets a month to prepare for them will beat them. So, in that sense, sure, they’re never going to be better than that 2009 ACC championship team. However, I don’t think it should be assumed that Tech is going to continue to be this mediocre team that they’ve been the last couple of seasons under Johnson. I really think that if they get better on defense and maybe get to where they can complete the forward pass with more consistency, there’s no reason GT can’t be as good as any other team in the ACC.
Jody Whitt: Johnson is an excellent coach who’s won at every stop, accumulating an impressive 141-58 record and two Division 1-AA National Championships at Georgia Southern. There’s no question that Johnson, from an X & O standpoint, is an offensive genius whose in game adjustments drives opposing coordinators batty. However, since NFL calibre players such as Jonathan Dwyer, Demaryius Thomas and Derrick Morgan have moved on, the Jackets have been right around a .500 team the last two seasons (14-12). As a result, Johnson needs to upgrade the overall talent base on The Flats, and also address his often woeful special teams, to elevate this program back to a championship level. This past offseason Johnson went out and hired a dedicated Special Teams coordinator, David Walkosky, so there’s hope this unit will at least be improved. However, the Jackets’ last few recruiting classes have been fairly pedestrian, especially when compared to the upper echelon teams in the ACC. So the talent acquisition issue still remains a work in progress.
Pete Sonski: Paul Johnson is still the best coaching option for Georgia Tech. It’s unlikely anyone will come in and have more success modifying his offense than he will by continuing to run it. No Tech coach will have an easy time of recruiting, so it’s logical to stay the course. There’s still a chance the Yellow Jackets can stay in contention and get some lucky breaks. This is not the season for opting to rebuild.
Kevin: Georgia Tech is 34-19 with Paul Johnson at the helm but they are just 14-12 over the last two years. It seems like Paul Johnson was a lot better when he was coaching with Chan Gailey’s players. That seems odd because Gailey didn’t recruit them to run a triple option. Paul Johnson is now recruiting kids strictly to compete in the triple option but he can’t find anybody as talented (or well-suited) as Gailey did. Seems a bit odd. More troubling is the lack of success he’s had on defense. Johnson is right in the middle of the largest city in the South and one of what is probably a top four recruiting ground in the entire country (behind Florida, California and Texas). Johnson’s inability to connect with the right kids on offense and defense has left him with average talent to work with and that has driven down results in the last two years. Unless Johnson can recruit better on the defensive side of the football and get better pieces on the offensive side of the football then Georgia Tech has absolutely reached their peak under Paul Johnson.