Georgia Tech faces transition with new coach, new offense
ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia Tech has a new coach, a new offense, a whole new mindset.
It will likely take a while to see any payoff on the field.
Heading into their first season under coach Geoff Collins, the Yellow Jackets are projected to be one of the worst teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference as they go through a jarring transition.
After 11 years running the triple-option under previous coach Paul Johnson, Collins has installed a fast-paced, pro-style offense that is more in line with the times.
Trouble is, he’s not yet had time to build a roster suited to that style of play — especially at the quarterback position. Lucas Johnson is expected to be the starter, even though he’s never thrown a pass at the college level.
“I’m not worried about outside expectations,” Collins said. “I’m worried about the internal that we have going on every single day to build the culture, to build exactly who we’re going to be moving forward. If we accomplish that every single day, we’re going to be a pretty good football team (and) we’re going to be a great football program.”
Here are some things to watch for at Georgia Tech, which opens the season with a prime-time game at defending national champion Clemson on Aug. 29:
QUESTIONS AT QUARTERBACK
Under the previous regime, Georgia Tech’s quarterback was essentially just another running back. Sure, he would throw the occasional pass, but that was mainly to keep defenses honest.
Collins will be looking for balance. It remains to be seen if there’s anyone on the current roster who can be an effective passer.
Lucas Johnson will probably get the first crack at the starting job based on his experience — he’s a fourth-year junior who has played in nine games — but keep an eye on freshman Jordan Yates. He was voted the top offensive player in Georgia’s largest classification and could move up the depth chart if the Yellow Jackets are struggling offensively.
Of course, the offensive transition runs deeper than one position. There are holes to fill and major adjustments needed at nearly every position.
“We inherited a roster that had 13 running backs on scholarship and zero tight ends,” Collins said.
Collins has spent much of his time trying to build up Georgia Tech’s brand among the locals. The Yellow Jackets rarely sell out games and have been largely overlooked in Atlanta’s crowded sports landscape.
Looking to change that, Collins has taken up nearly every offer to speak in the community, promoted the Yellow Jackets relentlessly on social media, drawn attention of his love for local favorite Waffle House, and tried to reach new fans by taking his players and staff to games hosted by the city’s pro sports teams.
It’s all part of what he calls the “404” culture — a reference to Atlanta’s area code.
“I love this great city,” Collins said. “We want to embrace it. The elite players in the country should be coming to Georgia Tech to play ball.”
REMEMBERING BIG B
Georgia Tech endured a tragic loss just before the start of spring practice with the death of defensive tackle Brandon Adams.
The team still honors him at every practice and intends to pay tribute in other ways throughout the season.
“We’ve had to come together,” senior tight end Tyler Cooksey said. “I’m so proud to say that I knew Brandon, I loved him so much. He’s still with us. He won’t be forgotten.”
SPECIAL TEAMS, INDEED
While the Yellow Jackets have plenty of troubling issues, special teams isn’t one of them.
Pressley Harvin is one of the nation’s top punters (41.3-yard average in 2018), while Wesley Wells was perfect on 39 extra points and nine field goal attempts.
“We have special teams being the first priority in our organization,” Collins said. “We take pride in that.”
The Yellow Jackets are hoping hard work will help compensate for some of their biggest shortcomings.
To that end, Collins brought in highly regarded strength coach Lewis Caralla. The players say it’s already paid huge dividends.
“We’re going to go out and shock the world,” lineman Jahaziel Lee said. “People just don’t know. They don’t know what we’ve done here in the past seven months. It’s all going to show.”