With spring ball underway, we’re taking a look at each ACC program, using recent performance, win-loss trends, coaching, current and future personnel. Up next is Georgia Tech.
2015 record: 3-9 (1-7 ACC)
Three-year record: 21-18
Coaching situation: Paul Johnson enters his ninth season in Atlanta with one of the more underrated resumes in the ACC. He won the ACC his first year (before it was vacated), won the Coastal division four times and was honored as the league’s coach of the year three times. He won the Orange Bowl in 2014. But one of the nation’s most consistent programs underwent a turmoil-filled 2015 campaign, as the Yellow Jackets won just three games and saw their 18-year streak of going to bowl games snapped — a mark that was tied for the second-longest in the country. Georgia Tech had just one staff change this offseason, bringing aboard Ron West as its co-offensive line coach.
Roster situation: The triple-option offense has been a Johnson staple, and few have run it better than Justin Thomas did in 2014. Thomas is back for 2016 after what was a forgettable 2015 for most of the unit, although youth and injuries surrounding Thomas were partly to blame. The Jackets return three offensive line starters, in addition to all but two A-backs and B-backs. Defensively the challenge will be much steeper, as last year’s entire secondary is gone, as are tackle Adam Gotsis and linebacker Tyler Marcordes.
Recruiting situation: The class that Georgia Tech signed last month ranked 53rd nationally, good for 11th in the ACC. The recruiting challenges can be steep given the academic hurdles that need to be cleared, but Johnson has done a nice job of navigating through the negativity in a highly competitive state like Georgia and has landed the proper fits for his system. Remember, Thomas was initially an Alabama DB commit. Of the Jackets’ 18 signees this year, 11 hail from the Peach State.
Trajectory: Even. Last year’s error-filled campaign was a big surprise given the program’s success in 2014, but it was likely an aberration. Consider: Six losses last year came by eight points or fewer. Also consider: Tech did end mighty Florida State’s 29-game ACC winning streak last year. The hallmark of the Jackets under Johnson has been consistency, with the opportunity to turn something good into something special every few years (like in 2014). The Coastal is tougher, yes, but defending a Johnson offense is a nightmare for most defensive coordinators, no matter how familiar they may be with it. Last year was a mess, but history indicates it won’t happen again anytime soon.