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Georgia Tech Football: I’m Still a Geoff Collins Believer

Despite Early Struggles I See A Path Forward

NCAA Football: Georgia at Georgia Tech Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Look, I know Geoff Collins’ first two seasons on the Flats haven’t been ideal. 2019 saw the Jackets win only three games, lose against Citadel, and got blown out on several occasions. 2020 was much the same with only 3 wins and some tough losses.

The first but is that we all knew this was coming. Revamping the entire offense was going to be a slow process. The defense wasn’t exactly stacked with talent (especially along the defensive line). There was never any expectations for these two seasons. Tons of fans talked about waiting until season 4 to see what was really building. I’ve seen many of those same fans already turn on him. I get why. Losing sucks. It’s a lot easier to say that you’ll tolerate losing for three years than actually having to live through it.

The second but is that the turnover has been huge. Geoff Collins’s team in his first year was young. The Yellow Jackets in his second season were extremely young. In the third season they’re still likely to be young (but not as young as last year). Part of that is probably a decision by Geoff Collins to focus on developing youngsters in years he didn’t expect to win a lot of games. But, the end result of it is that GT is missing experienced upperclassmen and leaders. It is hard to win with a young team and only in the next year or two will we start to see that has a solid mix of upperclassmen and youngsters. There should be major improvements in the results on the field then.

Now let’s talk a little about the play on the field. The offense in 2019 was horrible. No doubt about it. The offensive line was a disaster (that looked to be a major weakness even before the major scheme change). Passing was a serious issue. The running game was somehow alright even with all the focus on them. But the second season was a major improvement. The passing game got more rhythm with Jeff Sims and the offensive line improved (although they still weren’t very good). I was seriously worried about how the offense would look and I was pleasantly surprised. It’s made me cautiously optimistic for the offense in the future.

The defense I’ve been a little disappointed with. Geoff Collins has had defensive success basically everywhere he’s gone in his career. I didn’t think the Jackets would light the world on fire or anything, but I thought they already had some talent (especially in the secondary) and Collins could get them in a groove. That hasn’t happened at all. The secondary has disappointed and the defensive line struggled as much as I expected them too. That being said, I still have optimism. Collins has had enough past success on defense for me to count them out. I like the defensive line talent that is coming in. Collins may spend more time setting up the defense now that the offense is somewhat comfortable.

Finally we come to the worst part of the Collins era so far. Special teams. It’s been a downright disaster. Kicking has been terrible. Blocking terrible. Coverage terrible. The only good part has been punting and that seems to be entirely due to Pressley Harvin. Even he seemed to not quite live up to his potential. The worst part is that most of this isn’t due to talent. Things like blocking on field goals and kickoff returns are technique and discipline based. So why is this team having so much issues? Especially when Collins has repeatedly said that it’s a focus of the team? Special Teams play is the closest to making turn on Collins.

Overall the team was very bad in 2019. SP+ had them as 111th in the country thanks mostly to offense at 117th (and special teams at 119th). The team improved a decent bit in 2020 all the way to 89th. They jumped all the way to 86th on offense and I feel that could be poised to take another big step forward. Unfortunately the special teams was in the triple digits again. That needs to be an area of significant improvement.

I understand the reasons that some people may be down on Geoff Collins. The team has been bad. His schtick of uber positivity seems to rub a lot of people the wrong way (I’m no fan of it myself). Honestly I think a big part of the doom and gloom comes from that Citadel loss. If you swap the Citadel loss and Miami win in 2019 I think there is somewhat more of a positive feel around the program despite identical records.

Older Tech fans may remember some coaches who struggled early in their careers as they switched systems and prioritized their young players. You might remember Bill Curry going 2-19-1 in his first two seasons before leading Tech to its best season in two decades in 1985. Bobby Ross started off his Tech career going just 5-17 in his first two seasons and 0-13 against the ACC. He turned things around pretty good. George O’Leary was a little more successful at first, going .500 his first two seasons (after going 0-3 as an interim for B*** L****). But those were his least two successful seasons as his final five campaigns ended with GT in the top 25 (in the AP Poll).

I think that Geoff Collins is in a good position to follow in their footsteps and continue the improvement until GT is back to being an ACC contender.