When Paul Johnson was hired by the Yellow Jackets, he inherited a talented gang of players who were built to play Chan Gailey's pro-style offense. Players like Demaryius Thomas, Josh Nesbitt and Jonathan Dwyer were forces who fit into the Flexbone scheme and excelled under Johnson.
Since their departure, Paul Johnson has been working to stuff the coffers with that same talent level—largely unsuccessfully.
Small classes and more "system players" than "recruiting home runs" have characterized Paul Johnson's tenure on the recruiting trail in Atlanta. Throw in his policy with respect to commitments taking visits, and it is clear that Paul Johnson's methods of getting talent into the Yellow Jacket program leave much to be desired.
One issue Johnson will continue to battle is the idea that his offensive system does not best prepare players for success at the next level.
Of the Yellow Jackets drafted recently, only Demaryius Thomas (a Chan Gailey recruit) has had any true impact at the next level. Scouts discussed the potential of Steven Hill but continued to fall back on the lack of route-running and NFL readiness thanks to his development being stunted in Johnson's scheme.
The offensive recruiting is something that most folks understood Johnson would battle. Now, with Nigel Bowden, it seems defensively there may be cause for concern as well.
Al Groh is one of college football's finest defensive minds, and since he runs the Jackets' 3-4 scheme, one would assume that that side of the ball is in good hands. However, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, Bowden used Johnson's offense in making his decision:
“I feel like I fit in better in Vanderbilt’s 4-3 defense than I did with the 3-4 at Georgia Tech. And in practices every day at Vanderbilt, I can go against a pro-style offense, which will make me an even better player.”
Obviously, one player does not a trend make, but it is worth noting that Bowden most certainly has a point. While the scout team does try to give looks during the weeks of practice, the same reason duplicating Georgia Tech's offense is difficult comes back to haunt their defense. A team built around playing the option is not the best unit to give their defense pro-styled looks in practice.
In other words, if you're built to play the option and your defense practices against option players, then you might not be in the best position to build successful players on either side of the ball. It will be interesting to see if Bowden's stance is taken by other Yellow Jackets defensive targets.