Coach Paul Johnson has high hopes for an winning season.
Coach Paul Johnson is not fond of losing.
In fact, in his entire career as a head coach, he’s only had two losing seasons.
One of those was last year.
That’s when, after a 6-7 finish, the “Ramblin’ Wreck” proved to be nothing more than a sputtering jalopy.
After their much-heralded quarterback Joshua Nesbitt broke his arm in a pivotal game against Virginia Tech, the fizzle left this team. It went flat like a carbonated drink left open. They beat Duke to become bowl eligible, but in short, the gold and black lost four of their last five games.
Bad turned to worse. Bruised by Air Force (14-7) in the Independence Bowl, Johnson took his boys of spring to the Georgia Tech woodshed.
What had happened to tarnish Paul Johnson’s Cinderella story? To sum it up, 2010 was a season of mishaps and almosts. Or maybe you could say that last year, the wind simply blew the other way. Tech lost four key players to the NFL draft, a weak excuse. Some say there was a learning curve that hindered success as former Jets’ head coach, Al Groh’s 3-4 defense proved mentally challenging. Add that to Tech's bad case of the dropsies (they lost 20 fumbles) and you've got more losses than you have wins.
Bets are on that this year will be different.
Enduring the postseason with a restless fan base and active message boards that analyzed the Ramblin Wrecks' past deficiencies, coach Paul Johnson has hit the dog days of summer’s practice field with a piercing vengeance and attacked the physical and mental mistakes of 2010 with changes that promise to transform the grimace of disappointed fans into smiles.
Get ready ACC fans.
The Yellow Jacket stingers are out and this year’s team is ready to attack with an ACC division slot as their target.
An animated Johnson reacts to former QB Joshua Nesbitt's play.
The character of Paul Johnson—the ACC’s two-time “Coach of the Year” (2008 and 2009) — defines successful coaching at the college level.
With the exception of 2010, he has the uncanny ability to get wins out of very little talent.
His career spans three decades first starting in the South as defensive coordinator and later as offensive coordinator under Georgia Southern’s (late) Erk Russell in the 80s. It was there that he tasted his first plate full of victory helping lead the Eagles to two national championships.
After a lengthy stint as offensive coordinator at Hawaii and then to Navy, he was hired as head coach at Georgia Southern in 1997.
Contrary to doubters who said he lacked head-coach maturity, he went remarkably 62-10. In 2002, he left for Navy heralded after leading the Eagles to five Southern Conference championships and two Division I-AA national championships. Inheriting a struggling Navy team, Johnson fell to defeat, going 2-10 his first season, but eventually conquering his challenges to win an astounding 43 games.
When he took the head coaching position at Georgia Tech in 2008, he went 9-4 with only nine starters, and in his second year, went 11-3, winning the ACC championship.
Some say Johnson’s coaching style likens parenting. He has the demeanor of a strict dad whose angry stares can motivate without words. When he’s displeased, he shows it quite blatantly. His forehead comes together in a harsh, thick wrinkle and the edges of his mouth flow downward. His wrath is ruthless and rarely do his players make the same mistakes twice.
When he’s winning, Johnson feeds off the limelight. This year, the cameras might just be rolling his way.
Expect to see a well-groomed Tevin Washington (13) at QB
The Georgia Tech of 2011 will be well-groomed and with a schedule that compliments coach Paul Johnson's stringent summer camp and pre-seasoning conditioning program, this might just be the perfect storm that puts the Ramblin' Wreck in first place of the ACC's Coastal Division.
With most of its key games at home, Georgia Tech opens with Western Carolina on September 3, Johnson’s alma mater and a team they should easily dominate.
Followed by an away game at Middle Tennessee State (another likely win), they meet Kansas and North Carolina at home. Defeated by Kansas in 2010, they'll be ready this time and although it's been a while since the Tar Heels have won in Atlanta (not since 1997), this year will be no different.
Tech heads to NC State on October 1, just in time for the changing of the leaves and then travel back home for a date the Maryland Terrapins, a team that poses only a minor threat.
The challenges lie late in the season on the road at Miami and Virginia, with Clemson and Virginia Tech coming to Bobby Dodd Stadium’s natural grass field in back-to-back games. Revenge will be sweet.
By this time, Johnson's late-season forehead wrinkles from 2010 will fade and the Duke game (away) should offer a chance to rest starters before Georgia comes calling on November 26.
Along with the turkey, that weekend, they’ll take a second helping of dressing and a spoonful of cranberry sauce to take their division title into December for the ACC Conference championship game in Charlotte, NC on the third.
Predictions for a meeting with the Florida State Seminoles could add a kink to Johnson's winning season, but that won't keep the boys from a bowl bid once the dust settles.
Last year's Georgia Tech Quarterback Joshua Nesbitt carries the ball prior to his season-ending injury in 2010 against Virginia Tech.
The battle for quarterback squelches the visions of 2010's Joshua Nesbitt, who left Georgia Tech after an injury took him out for the season against Virginia Tech mid-season. There are two boys vying for the position this year.
Sharing that this is “ a new era at Georgia Tech,” the 6’1, 205-pound red shirt freshman Synjyn Days is one of those. He says losing to Air Force in the Independence Bowl was enough motivation for this team to come together as one unit. Acquiring his driving work ethic from Nesbitt, Days says he’s ready to fill those “big shoes.” Proving his worth is another matter.
In a mid-August scrimmage, junior quarterback Tevin Washington passed for more than 100 yards including a 63-yarder to senior Roddy Jones as Days threw the only TD of the day. Coach Johnson praised both. Washington has bought into Johnson’s “one day at a time” philosophy filled with focus on the task at hand. He also has on-field experience.
As No. 1 on the depth chart, Washington says, he’s ready to accept his new leadership role as Days fights for any and all opportunities to help out.
Fans should expect to see the challenge for the starting QB come down to on-field performance on the grass at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Expect Tevin Washington to shine against Virginia Tech in 2011.
The pivotal game for the Yellow Jackets will be November 10 when they play, and defeat, their rival, Virginia Tech at home.
Riding high into Hotlanta, the Hokies will bring a higher ranking but a defensive line with a slow rush that Tech coaching will outsmart.
Virginia Tech scored last year with 1:48 left in the game but trailed for most of the game, leaving the Yellow Jackets bruised and kicking beneath the confetti.
But this year under Johnson’s new and improved team, the sting will be lethal when Georgia Tech’s improved offense, an established quarterback duo of Washington and Days, and a Hokie defensive line stocked with a mere one returning starter, hits the field.
Look for Georgia Tech to dominate and win this one.
Marcus Dowtin (Georgia) and Orwin Smith (Tech) battle it out between the hedges in 2010.
Predictions are that Georgia Tech will be a few steps ahead of the University of Georgia when this one comes to Atlanta.
Last year’s Ramblin’ Wreck fell to the Dawgs in a humiliating battle between the hedges, but don’t count on Paul Johnson’s team to repeat that performance (a 42-34 win for the Bulldogs).
Coach Johnson’s team has been in time-out since that devastating day and will plunge into the state rivalry game out-scoring their opponent by at least a touchdown.
The Dawgs will hang their heads, fold their ears back, dig a hole that reaches all the way to Athens while Tech players will pack their bags for Charlotte and a date with Florida State for the ACC Division Championship.
Last year the Jackets faced a do or die situation when they came to Duke. They were one win away from a bowl bid.
They rallied, defeated the Blue Devils, and earned their bid. But this year's team will have have survived through the season and emerged victorious with big wins over Clemson and Virginia Tech. With last year’s trip to the Independence Bowl (the 14th consecutive season the school has earned in its history), they'll be sure to put on an explosive offensive and defensive post-season show to restore the success of the Paul Johnson era.
With last year’s team leading the nation in rushing offense for the first time in the school’s history (in spite of its record), look for this year’s stats to add up.
The Yellow Jackets will see a bowl-game victory and head into 2012 with a new-found respect, not seen at the school since 2009 and it won't take a degree in engineering to get them there.
Will Coach Paul Johnson stick around for 2012?
The yellow jacket is known for its repetitive stings and these players intend to inflict some repeated pain on their competitors this year. Look for the quarterback challenge to play out as a win for Tevin Washington who threw for 417 yards (41 percent) and rushed for 514 total yards in his four games as a starter, following the injury of Joshua Nesbitt.
Look for linebackers Steven Sylvester and possibly Brandon Watts, Quayshawn Nealy, and Malcolm Munroe to excel.
With six returning starters on offense and five on defense, coach Paul Johnson will defy any negativity about his team and his critics will once again zip it.
Will Johnson stick around for another season in Atlanta?
His sleeper division championship will no doubt bring him notoriety.
But a glance at his resume proves he might have wandering eyes for the Southeastern Conference.