It’s a truth that carries over in college football probably more than in any other walk of life. You’re only as good as your last success. In the case of Georgia Tech head football coach Paul Johnson, that success is getting further and further away, especially when it comes down to recruiting.
Trying to recruit top football players to come to an engineering school with tough academic standards, and to what would be considered more of an international campus (and not an athletic hotbed) isn’t easy. But Paul Johnson knew that when he came to The Flats in 2008 from his head coaching position at Navy.
When you add the offense that Johnson chooses to run, which tends to be very excluding of skill position players other than running backs, it ups the difficulty level even more.
Johnson’s predecessor, Chan Gailey, may not have been the most successful Georgia Tech football coach in terms of won-loss records, but the guy could recruit. Johnson was the beneficiary of Gailey’s ability to lure great players when he arrived here, but since then–as Gailey’s recruits have moved on–Johnson’s returns have diminished greatly.
Here are the recruiting class rankings and Georgia Tech W-L records since Johnson arrived.
2008 – #37 9-4
2009 – #32 11-3
2010 – #41 6-7
2011 – #46 8-5
2012 – #59 7-7
2013 – #72 7-5 (1 game remaining)
The steady decline in recruiting class ranks, and flatlining of the team’s record would seem to indicate that Georgia Tech just isn’t getting good enough players to compete in the ACC, less yet on a national scope.
This year Tech has 18 commitments for the 2014 class–16 three-star and 2-four star–and isn’t ranked in the top 40 recruiting classes in the nation, currently pulling in a no.44 ranking from 247sports.com. With the heavy lifting part of the recruiting season just around the corner, it would seem likely that ranking will not improve by the time National Signing Day arrives on Feb. 5, 2014.
The state of Georgia is rich in football talent (the third richest in the nation) and Tech should have the ability to cultivate some of that talent. While rival Georgia may always grab the lion’s share of the top recruits, Georgia Tech has to be able to figure out how to keep a lot more of these young men from going out of state. Having Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida State and South Carolina all within a few hours of most of the state’s borders doesn’t help.
How can this be accomplished? Start with flexibility. Johnson needs to become a little more flexible when it comes to his policy on visits to other schools from Tech commits (Johnson bristles at this incidentally, saying his policy is no different than other schools), and definitely some flexibility in the offensive schemes. The triple-option is a great weapon, but Tech needs more in the arsenal.
Coach Paul Johnson knew what hew was getting into when he came to Georgia Tech, but one has to ask at this point if he came in with a viable plan when it comes to recruiting, or if–like his offensive play-calling–he just wings it without notes or play sheets in his hand.