Over the next couple of weeks, we're going to go through the coaching staff and evaluate each coach on their performance. They'll be evaluated from a total job standpoint -- including coaching players on the team as well as recruiting history. From there, we might make a couple of recommendations to Coach Johnson based on the results. To be honest, at this point, I have no idea how this is going to turn out -- my research will be done as we go.
The first coach we'll be evaluating is Quarterbacks & B-Backs coach Bryan Cook.
History & Time at Georgia Tech
Cook graduated from Ithaca in 1998 and has been in coaching ever since. He's in his second stint at Georgia Tech, serving as a graduate assistant from 2001-2003 under George O'Leary and Chan Gailey. Most recently, Cook was at Cal Poly as their co-offensive coordinator from 2009-2012. (He ran a similar offense there.)
Cook joined the staff at Georgia Tech prior to the 2013 season as Quarterbacks & B-Backs coach, replacing the departed longtime CPJ assistant Brian Bohannon (now the first-ever head coach at Kennesaw State University).
Notable Players Coached: QB Vad Lee, QB Justin Thomas, BB Zach Laskey, BB Synjyn Days, BB Marcus Allen, BB Marcus Marshall
|QB/AB||Matthew Jordan (with Mike Pelton)||2014|
|WR||J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (Stanford)||2015|
With Cook still being early in his career at Georgia Tech, he's likely still working to form relationships with high school coaches and players that will be the basis for getting their commitments. That said, in his first two recruiting cycles, Cook has had a positive impact, gaining 8 commitments in total. More importantly, I think it should be pointed out that several of these recruits have been some of the higher-rated players from these two classes.
With the current recruiting class, Cook has not yet secured any commitments, but is the lead recruiter for Donavaughn Campbell as well as a few of Georgia Tech's other potential commitments over the next two months. Several of them would, again, be high-value targets if he's able to secure just one or two of them.
For Cook, recruiting has been pretty good numbers-wise, but particularly strong from a player quality standpoint.
Cook has just finished his third season in charge of Quarterbacks and B-Backs, and has seen something of a variance in the performance of both.
He's coached two starting quarterbacks in his time -- Vad Lee and Justin Thomas. Lee unceremoniously decided to transfer out following Cook's first season following a sub-par season on the field (82 for 180, 1,561 yards, 11 TD, 10 INT, 45.6% completion, 182 carries, 513 yards, 8 TD, 2.82 yards per carry). Whether that was a coaching issue, though, or something else entirely? I'll leave that up to you.
Thomas, on the other hand led the team to 11 wins in his first season, including several major wins where he made big plays throughout. It was a strong performance for Thomas on the field, much better statistically than that of Lee in 2013 as he lead the team in yards (96 for 187, 1,719 yards, 18 TD, 6 INT, 51.3% completion, 190 carries, 1,086 yards, 8 TD, 5.72 yards per carry). Thomas saw a downturn in numbers in 2015 amid countless injuries (including his own), struggles on the offensive line, and a brand new set of skill position players (75 for 180, 1,345 yards, 13 TD, 8 INT, 41.7% completion, 145 carries, 488 yards, 6 TD). His numbers didn't look good, nor did those of the team, and there are various explanations for why. After his performance in 2014, coaching is an unlikely culprit, but could be considered part of the equation.
Cook gets the benefit of the doubt with this position, although the jury is still a little bit out.
Perhaps Cook's best track record with regards to coaching has been in relation to the B-Backs, where he's had a positive impact on veterans and rookies alike.
The 2013 season saw Cook coach two primary B-Backs, David Sims & Zach Laskey, who combined for 245 carries, 1,369 yards (5.58 yards per carry), and 18 touchdowns. It was Sims' best season of his career from a statistical standpoint by nearly 200 yards and 4 touchdowns. It also saw Laskey improve on his yards per carry, from 5.24 in 2012 to 5.77 in 2013. It's clear that Cook had an immediate impact, even during a season when Georgia Tech's offense wasn't setting the world on fire.
2014 will be the season that Georgia Tech fans remember as the "Year of the B-Back" for the foreseeable future, after Laskey was joined by Synjyn Days in imposing their wills on opposing defenses down the stretch of the season. Laskey saw a drop in his yards per carry, all the way to 4.98, but did so on over twice as many carries and with nearly 400 more yards. He started the team's first seven games before suffering an injury against North Carolina that caused him to miss multiple games. In his absence, the senior Days stepped in as a starter at B-Back for the first time in his career, after spending most of his time at Quarterback and A-Back. Through the UNC game, Days had only 16 carries for 89 yards. The final seven games of the year saw Days manage four 100-yard efforts, average 20 carries per game, and a whopping 5.92 yards per carry. Prior to the season, Days had never played B-Back. By the end of the season, Days was honorable mention All-ACC as a B-Back. Plenty of that can be attributed to Days' physical ability and the contributions of the team around him, but there's a big part of that which needs to be attributed to coaching as well.
The B-Backs had a much more variable return in the 2015 season, as Cook's unit was a brand new crop of players -- transfer Patrick Skov, true freshman Marcus Marshall, and former linebacker Marcus Allen were the primary B-Backs, and were afforded a grand total of 4 days of practice at the position prior to the start of fall camp. Through it all, the trio managed 1,197 yards rushing on 214 carries (5.59 yards per carry). It was only the second time under Paul Johnson at Georgia Tech that the top two B-Backs combined for less than 1,200 yards. That said, remember that two of these players were learning the position for the first time in fall camp, and one of those managed to lead the team in rushing yards (Marshall, with 654).
As we move towards 2016, continue to watch the development and growth of Marshall, and watch the production of guys like Quaide Weimerskirch (who would have played this season, if not for an injury suffered in spring practice). This group is sure to make a rebound -- it's just going to require a little bit of experience.
It's clear that Cook has had a positive impact on the team from both a coaching and recruiting standpoint. His track record at Georgia Tech thus far with recruiting has not been in acquiring a ton of recruits, but the ones that he has secured have been some of the best players in each of their respective classes. The quarterbacks he's coached have been very up-and-down at times, but with a tendency towards positive performances (especially looking at non-starters such as Tim Byerly). His impact on-field has likely been most felt with the B-Backs, where he's improved performances of veterans year-over-year, and has coached up some of the newer players to the system significantly as well.
If you ask me, Cook is a coach that should be retained for the foreseeable future, and there's not a ton that you could point at that would make me think otherwise.