We continue our series today with a look at a former player for Paul Johnson, and assistant for his former coach's entire tenure at Georgia Tech.
History & Time at Georgia Tech
A native of Savannah, Owens is an alumnus of Benedictine Military School (along with true freshman WR Brad Stewart). Owens graduated from Maryland in 2008, although he played quarterback under Coach Johnson at the Naval Academy in the mid-2000s. He immediately joined on the staff at Georgia Tech, reuniting with his former coach as an Offensive Quality Control Coach in 2008 and as an Offensive Graduate Assistant in 2009.
Owens took over the A-Backs group in 2010 and has been in the role ever since. He moved into the role to replace Jeff Monken following his departure to be the head coach at Georgia Southern.
Notable Players Coached: AB Robert Godhigh, AB Orwin Smith, AB Charles Perkins, AB Deon Hill, AB Broderick Snoddy, AB Dennis Andrews, QB/AB Matthew Jordan, AB Clinton Lynch
|OL||Tre Jackson (Florida State)||2011|
|RB||Shadrach Thornton (N.C. State)||2012|
|RB||J.J. Green (georgia)||2013|
|DE||Naim Mustafaa (georgia)||2013|
|RB||Caleb Kinlaw (Wisconsin)||2014|
|DB||Lamont Simmons (USC)||2014|
|OL||Sage Hardin (georgia)||2015|
|OL||Jordan Johnson (decommitted)||2016|
Owens does much of his recruiting in North Florida and South Georgia, especially in the Jacksonville area. There are a few interesting things here probably worth pointing out though:
- Even though he's the A-Backs coach and an offensive player by trade, Owens' recruits have been primarily defensive players throughout his tenure.
- You'll notice that multiple of the "notable misses" are players that chose schools besides Georgia Tech and then joined on the team later. Omitted from this list was Tim Byerly, who also was recruited by Owens, but did not have an offer from Georgia Tech out of high school.
- Owens is responsible for a total of 16 signees across the 2011-2015 recruiting classes, or 3.2 per year. With Jordan Johnson's recent decommitment, there are no commitments in the current class for whom Owens was the lead recruiter.
Among the coaching staff at Georgia Tech, Owens is probably not the strongest recruiter, but has certainly profited from building and maintaining relationships with players who end up choosing to go elsewhere. It cannot be considered a coincidence that there are three separate transfer players on Georgia Tech's roster who were all recruited out of high school by Owens, and it's encouraging that those relationships are some of the more meaningful ones to those players. At the same time, it could be considered worrisome that those players clearly have some interest in Georgia Tech, and Owens is unable to connect with them at the point when they're in high school.
Again, Owens' record as a recruiter isn't the best of those on staff, but he hasn't quite been a problem either.
After six seasons in charge of the A-Backs, Owens has a strong track record of developing players. Given the nature of the role, it's tough to compare season-to-season statistics for the entire position group. That said, the best comparisons to make are for individuals from season-to-season, specifically in their yards per carry average. (A-Backs in particular see their carries vary significantly from year-to-year -- what matters more is what they do with the ball once they get it.) To look at this development, I went and plotted the YPC average of several prominent A-Backs, since 2010. They were compared in terms of which year the player was in the offense -- Year 1, Year 2, or Year 3. In addition, this eliminates seasons where players had less than 10 carries.
The results are...interesting. 8 of 10 players have seen their YPC improve from year 1 to year 2, and then 3 of 4 have seen it degrade in year 3 (if applicable). I have a tough time coming up with an explanation for why. Whether it's a coaching issue, a motivation, or a "teammates' ability" issue, I'm not sure. But...the numbers are what they are.
Typically, the biggest point of contention with A-Backs under Coach Johnson's tenure has been perimeter blocking -- probably the most underrated aspect of the offense in terms of importance to its success. Perimeter blocking requires a combination of both technique and effort, and the former falls on Owens at the very least. It seems to be a skill that takes time to pick up and refine (with older players being considerably better than younger ones), although some players have never picked up on how to properly execute these blocks.
It should also be noted here that the players typically have really loved playing for Coach Owens, and that never hurts in these evaluations. Overall, it seems like Owens develops his players, although it's not been particularly consistent through the years.
Coach Owens has generally been a solid coach at Georgia Tech. It's hard to say there's any particular area where he's proven to be an expert, but at the same time it's hard to call out any areas where there's a clear flaw. His recruiting has been solid -- not perfect, but providing results, including after Signing Day with the attraction of transfers. The individuals within his position group have improved in general from Year 1 to Year 2, although there seems to be a noticeable, inexplicable fall-off in Year 3. Finally, maybe one of the most underrated things about Owens is how much the players like to play for him.
Owens isn't the single best coach on the staff, but he's a good coach who's produced during his time and deserves to be kept around for a few more years.