Georgia Tech Football: Upcoming Games Now Crucial for Paul Johnson


It seems so long ago.  Only two weeks ago, the Yellow Jackets were 5-0 coming off another huge conference win against Miami in an electric Bobby Dodd Stadium.  The Georgia Tech fans sensed this may be a special year and were already looking at hotel rooms in Charlotte.

Fast-forward to the present.  Wow what a difference a couple of weeks make!  The Yellow Jackets, after finally ending long droughts to Miami and VA Tech, lost to two teams Paul Johnson was a combined 11-1 against in his 7-year tenure as Georgia Tech head coach.

This is exactly what Johnson didn’t need this season.  I mentioned at the beginning of the season what was the likely situation Johnson needed to secure his future at Tech.  One was winning the Coastal Division, and the other was beating the Bulldogs, or both.

Georgia is certainly not an unbeatable behemoth, but seeing as how strong their offensive line is performing allowing Nick Chubb back-to-back 100+ yard rushing games, it seems like a tall task asking Georgia Tech’s young, undersized defensive line to stand up to that challenge.

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As far as the ACC Coastal is concerned, let’s be honest.  Tech is still not even close to being out of the race.  I also mentioned to you last week that either a 7-1 or 6-2 record will win this division out-right.  That’s still very much the case.  The Jackets are sitting at 2-2 in league play.

Every remaining conference game left on Tech’s schedule is winnable.  Yes, even Clemson is a winnable game for the Jackets.

Clemson has struggled mightily since losing starting QB Deshaun Watson, barely beating Louisville and Boston College the last two weeks, and may still not have Watson back in time for the game November 15th in Atlanta.

Also, it’s worth mentioning that Clemson has only beaten Tech in Atlanta twice in 18 years.  Due to a scheduling quirk after adding Pitt & Syracuse in 2013, the Jackets had to travel to Death Valley two years in a row.

The last time Clemson visited Bobby Dodd Stadium in 2011, the eventual ACC Champion No.5 Tigers were undefeated and got walloped by the Jackets 31-17.

Here’s the problem for Paul Johnson.  Now in his 7th season, Johnson has really only had one better than average defense, the unit in his first season.

Michael Johnson, Vance Walker, and Daryl Richard were absolute beasts on the defensive front for the Jackets that year, but each season afterwards has seen average to awful play.  Even with Morgan Burnett and Derrick Morgan in 2009, the unit ranked 80th in total defense.

The 2009 ACC Championship game saw a player of the losing team win MVP in C.J. Spiller, and if that wasn’t a testament to how awful the Tech defense was, the loss to unranked Georgia the week prior surely was.  The poor play of Tech’s defensive line against Georgia’s run game was downright embarrassing in front of a national audience.

Perhaps Johnson regrets firing defensive coordinator Dave Wommack after the 2009 ACC Championship season.  Recognize that name?  Yes, Wommack is now the DC for the Ole Miss Rebels.

Could you really blame him though?  Johnson had to believe that finishing 11-3 with a unit as bad as the Jackets were then, that any marked improvement would deem them near-unstoppable going forward.

Again as mentioned previously here on Yellow Jacked Up, I brought attention to the biggest mistake in hindsight Johnson made as head coach and could very well cost him his job, be it this year or next.  That’s the hiring of Al Groh.

Again, how could you not be on board at the time?  Al Groh was a fantastic hire on paper.  One of many NFL-experienced minds that was developed under Bill Parcels, Groh also had a solid record of strong defensive units during his tenure as head coach at Virginia.

After two dismal years under his direction, it was clear by 2012 that it wasn’t working, and the players just quite frankly looked confused every snap.  Georgia Tech finished that season ranked 79th/94th/61st in total/pass/rush defense. Keep in mind those stats were even bumped up slightly by the takeover of Charles Kelly midway through the season, now DC at FSU.

Oct 18, 2014; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets head coach Paul Johnson on the sidelines in the second quarter at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Ted Roof does seem to have the defense on the right track, and it’s clear that he inherited an absolute mess. This unit is young, and has potential with several talented young players, like KeyShun Freemen and Paul Davis.

But with five straight losses to the Bulldogs and now what is dangerously close to spiraling into another 7-win season, You have to wonder if the fans and the administration will give Johnson another season to progress if this season winds up “status-quo”.

Anybody that says cliche statements like, “That offense just wont work at this level in college”, or “No NFL-caliber players will want to go there”, or “This is a high school offense and too boring to watch”, clearly does not watch these games.  If you watched just one quarter of the game against UNC last week, you would have immediately noticed that none of the aforementioned statements are true.

The plague of bad defense is continuing, and it’s killing Paul Johnson here at Tech.  Whether or not Johnson and Roof can save this season, and the perception of the Yellow Jackets, will be on display beginning this Saturday at 3:30 in Pittsburgh.

Through Chan Gailey and now Johnson over the last 12 years, Georgia Tech has been frustrating.  Seven of those 12 seasons have 7-win totals (and one 6-win in 2010)  . The Georgia Tech faithful are tired of its proud football program being “consistently inconsistent.”