Paul Johnson concluded his 4th season at the helms of the Georgia Tech football program with a loss to Utah in the Sun Bowl on New Year's Eve. It was the end of a season that went much better than many expected, as the team met its expected win total for the season before it even lost (Tech started the year 6-0 before losing in Charlottesville to UVA). However, it was a rough finish to the season, featuring a huge win over then-undefeated Clemson on national television but also including losses to Virginia Tech and the DWAGS, followed by the loss in the bowl game. Basically a 6-0 start was followed by a 2-5 finish, for an 8-5 season. It was better than expected from such a young team with a starting QB who had minimal experience, but left a lot of fans feeling like the team had even more in it. Some mistakes were made that cost us games at times, and it's hard for the fan base to know we were only a few plays from a 10-3 season, an ACC Championship appearance, or at least a bowl win. But the bottom line is this: the team was better than expected, and should continue to improve and work closer to a Coastal Division championship.
Coach Johnson is a great fit at Georgia Tech because he's been able to achieve great success relative to the quality of players he's recruited due to being a fantastic coach. I don't think that we've had a Top 25 recruiting class since Johnson took over, and yet we're a major competitor for the division title each year. Though I believe in what he says about recruiting rankings being largely bullshit, it also feels good that we outperform teams who have higher-ranked recruits, regardless of the validity of the rankings. In his time at Tech, we have gone 34-19 overall, though 14-12 the past two years. Some are discouraged by that, but I would contend that he had to do a bit of rebuilding once Gailey's players mostly left. His disciplined redshirting and altering of our defensive scheme caused a temporary drop in success, but is a very good thing for this team in the long run.
In firing Dave Wommack as defensive coordinator coming off of a conference championship, Johnson showed a relentless desire to win and make any moves necessary to put his team in a position to do so. Al Groh's defense the past two years has been like ordering a delicious bison burger, only to find out that the burger was actually made from Taco Bell-grade meat. No knocks on Taco Bell or anything, but it's entirely questionable to compare that in quality to one of the bison burgers from Ted's Montana Grill. Basically the idea is that you're trying to create this beautiful things with subpar supplies, where Groh's defense was pieced together using players who were not really good fits for the positions they were playing (seriously, as quick as OLBs are supposed to be, watching former DE Anthony Egbuniwe try to chase down ANYONE was really painful...).
This year looks to be a big one for the Jackets. This is the year that we have the right pieces in the right places. This is the year that we don't have to settle for guys playing positions because they're the least bad at them, and the year where we have some really quality young players that will work hard and push each other so that we have the best possible athletes all over the field. Groh's defense is installed so that the right players are in the right positions and know what they need to be doing. Johnson has a lot of talented players in the right positions on offense, and swallowed his pride in hiring a special teams coordinator to correct issues with that part of the team. I look for this year to be a major one in Paul Johnson's tenure at Tech. I expect for us to be surprised and impressed with the team that we're watching, and I expect for us to outperform the expectations that people have for us.
Most importantly, I expect Johnson to continue doing anything he can to make our program the best it possibly can be, and I expect continued success with him at the helms. I'm very happy that he's our coach and think he's done a fantastic job to date, and hope to continue holding those sentiments for years to come.
How do you feel about Coach Johnson? Like him? Hate him? Just want the Throwback Thursday white helmets back? Let's hear it.