You know how that fresh, new piece of bubble gum tastes when you put it in your mouth and starting chewing on it? It tastes fantastic. It's so sweet and satisfying. Yet, after a couple of minutes, it starts to lose its sweet flavor. That fantastic taste is gone and now you're left with...just plain gum. That's the feeling Georgia Tech fans are getting with Paul Johnson.
It started as an electric jolt. Paul Johnson is hired and Georgia Tech starts to run over people. Literally. Check out Jonathan Dwyer for a demonstration:
In his first two seasons (2008, 2009) Johnson beat Georgia and won the ACC. On top of that, he wins ACC coach of the year in both of those years. It doesn't get much better than that. It does help to have a all star cast too: Josh Nesbitt, Jonathan Dwyer, Roddy Jones, Derrick Morgan, Morgan Burnett, and Demaryius Thomas just to name a few of the players who helped bring Tech back to prominence. Paul Johnson's offense was running like a fine machine and no one could slow it down. However, those players I mentioned have now graduated and/or gone to the NFL. Since 2010, Paul Johnson's record at Georgia Tech is 28-25. On top of that, since 2008, he is 1-5 against Georgia, 1-5 against Miami, 1-5 against Virginia Tech, and 1-5 in bowl games as the Yellow Jackets' head coach.
Is it his offense? No. I think it's safe to say his offense works at this level. His teams average around 35 points a game and are in the top 5 in rushing in the nation just about every year. So what gives? I believe you have to look at the Quarterback position for the answer. For the first two seasons of Paul Johnson's team, he had a battering ram by the name of Josh Nesbitt. Josh was not recruited for the option offense. Yet, Johnson had the confidence Nesbitt could run it if Josh would study, learn, and work hard. It paid off. In 2008, Nesbitt rushed for 693 yards with 7 touchdowns of his own. In 2009, he rushed for 1037 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground. You could always count on Nesbitt to convert that 4th and 1 or gain an extra 5 yards when it looked like he would go no where. Now from 2011-2012, Tevin Washington was behind center and he could run the triple option really well. For his career at Tech, he rushed for 3312 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. The issue with Tevin was that he was not a very good passer nor very accurate. He also was not the same physical specimen as Nesbitt. He couldn't scramble like Nesbitt nor make many plays out of nothing -- hence his being sacked 28 times over his career. In 2013, Vad Lee took the reigns of Quarterback for Georgia Tech. Lee had a cannon for an arm that Johnson has been looking for. The problem? He couldn't run the option. Lee looked confused half the time running the base offense and made many mistakes, especially against tougher teams like Virginia Tech and Miami. So what am I getting at?
My point is Paul Johnson has had a hard time finding a Quarterback for his system. I know it's not a popular offense while most of college football teams are running a spread or pro-style formation, but there has to be a diamond in the rough somewhere. I have no idea if Justin Thomas or Tim Byerly are going to be the next Tracey Ham for Georgia Tech but that's what it's going to take for this team to reach the next level. They need a Quarterback they can run the option but also keep defenses honest with a legit passing game.
I think I speak for every Georgia Tech fan when I say that 2014 needs to be a great year for Paul Johnson. I'm not saying he needs to be canned if Tech goes 7-6 again. I'm saying there needs to be significant improvement from this team if he wants to be here for the long term.
What are you thoughts? Does Tech have that Quarterback somewhere on the depth chart, or does any stud quarterback want to play in this kind of offense?