After back-to-back seven-win seasons that included a disappointing bowl loss to Ole Miss and losses to rival Georgia, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson enters his seventh season in Atlanta under increased scrutiny from naysayers. But athletic director Mike Bobinski, who is wrapping up his first year with the athletic department, has a different point of view.
Asked in a recent interview if Johnson was still the right guy for the job -- with the right offense -- Bobinski said yes.
“My interpretation of what you want out of your offensive football team has always been take care of the ball, hang onto the ball and score a lot of points,” Bobinski said. “When we’re playing offense well under Paul’s system, we do all of those things at a really high level. Last year, we didn’t put all of the pieces together like we typically do offensively, but I don’t think that’s got anything to do with the scheme or the philosophy. It has everything to do with execution, and that’s something I think we’ll get corrected as this year comes around.”
Bobinski pointed out the defensive improvement the Jackets made last season as one of the most encouraging signs. In 2012, Georgia Tech fired former defensive coordinator Al Groh midseason and finished No. 65 in the country in scoring defense, allowing 28 points per game. In 2013, the Jackets improved to No. 29 in the country in scoring defense, holding teams to 22.8 points per game. They were also No. 27 in the country in total defense (360.2 ypg) and No. 26 in teams sacks (2.62).
“The fact that we’ve really grown on the defensive side gives us that solid foundation,” Bobinski said. “I think we’ve recruited really well on the defensive side of the ball. Obviously, they’re going to be young, and they have to grow into it a little bit, but I like where we’re headed on the defensive side. I think the offense will return. We churned out a lot of yards, but there were times when we didn’t execute particularly well. We were sloppy with penalties. We just did non-Georgia Tech-type things offensively that if we can get all that cleaned up, we can move in a positive direction. I feel good about it.”
Johnson’s spread option offense has been good enough for him to earn the ACC’s Coach of the Year honor twice and win a league title that was later vacated. The 2010 team became the first in ACC history to lead the nation in rushing offense. He has done it before, but last season was another one filled with inconsistent performances that ended with quarterback Vad Lee’s decision to transfer.
“We had one of those years where we had the ultimate up-and-down roller coaster ride,” Bobinski said. “One of the key things for us this year was we made a fairly significant amount of progress on the defensive side of the ball, which was really necessary for us. You’ve got to have some stability and some substance and [be able] to hang your hat on the ability to play defense week in and week out. That was a really good step for us this year.
“One of the things that was interesting was we weren’t as consistently good on offense, as we have been typically under Coach Johnson,” Bobinski said. “He’s an unbelievably successful offensive coach over a long period of proven years. To me, that’s something. I’m encouraged by that because [last season] that’s not his history, that’s not our history. We’ll get that one right.”