Wide Receivers Coach
Wide Receivers Coach
Al “Buzz” Preston, who has coached in every American time zone and enjoyed success from Atlanta to Honolulu, is in his 11th season as wide receivers coach at Georgia Tech.
Preston has played a large role in Georgia Tech being named college football’s “Best Wide Receiver Factory” by ESPN, as he has developed six NFL wideouts in his first 10 seasons on The Flats — Demaryius Thomas (Denver Broncos), Stephen Hill (New York Jets, Carolina Panthers), DeAndre Smelter (San Francisco 49ers, Jacksonville Jaguars), Darren Waller (Baltimore Ravens), Kevin Cone (Atlanta Falcons, Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns) and Ricky Jeune (Los Angeles Rams).
Four of the six (Thomas, Hill, Smelter and Waller) were selected in the NFL Draft, headlined by Thomas, who was picked by the Denver Broncos in the first round (22nd overall) in 2010 and has amassed 629 receptions for 8,653 yards and 57 touchdowns in eight pro seasons. Thomas, a five-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro, won Super Bowl 50 with the Broncos in 2016.
Under Preston’s tutelage at Tech, Thomas caught 46 passes for 1,154 yards, good for a remarkable 25.1 yards per reception, and was named first-team all-ACC as a junior in 2009.
Hill collected more than 1,200 career receiving yards to go with nine touchdown receptions at Georgia Tech and led the nation in yards per reception (29.3) as a junior in 2011. He was selected in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Jets.
Preston also mentored both Smelter and Waller who were selected in the fourth and sixth rounds of the 2015 NFL Draft, respectively. Under Preston’s watch, Smelter became the 21st 1,000-yard receiver in school history in 2014, opposite of Waller, who also had a breakout year as a senior in ‘14 (17.0 yards per catch, six touchdowns).
Most recently, Jeune caught 74 passes for 1,492 yards and 11 touchdowns under Preston’s tutelage from 2015-17. Jeune’s 21.8 yards per reception as a senior in 2017 led the ACC and ranked seventh nationally.
Preston has 37 years of coaching experience, all at the NCAA Division I level. His notable stops prior to Georgia Tech include:
• in his lone season at New Mexico (2007), helping lead the Lobos to their first bowl win in 45 years and coaching first-team all-Mountain West running back Rodney Ferguson (1,177 yards 13 TDs);
• two stints at Stanford (1999-2001, 2006), where he helped lead the Cardinal to the 1999 Pac-10 championship and 2000 Rose Bowl, its first appearance in the “Granddaddy of Them All” in 28 years;
• coaching two 1,000-yard rushers (All-American Julius Jones and Ryan Grant) in three seasons as running backs coach at Notre Dame (2002-04);
• helping lead Washington State to one of the best seasons in program history when it went 10-2, won the Pac-10 title and earned its first Rose Bowl berth in 67 years as RB coach in 1997. One of Preston’s pupils, Mike Black, ran for 1,157 yards and earned all-conference recognition in ‘97;
• taking on several roles (coaching receivers and defensive backs, assisting with special teams and strength and conditioning) while serving on the same staff as current Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson at Hawai’i (1987-93). Preston’s seven-year stint at his alma mater included the first Western Athletic Conference championship (1992), the first bowl appearance (1989 Aloha Bowl vs. Michigan State) and the first bowl win (1992 Holiday Bowl vs. Illinois) in program history;
• producing nine all-conference honorees in three seasons at his first full-time job, coaching wide receivers and defensive backs at Southern Illinois (1984-86).
Prior to becoming a full-time coach, Preston was a graduate assistant at Hawai`i in 1980 and 1981, a part-time coach at UH in 1982 and a graduate assistant at Washington in 1983. During his career, Preston has also served as a guest coach for the Toronto Argonauts, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles.
A native of Los Angeles, Preston received a bachelor’s degree in speech from Hawai`i in 1982, where he was a two-year letterwinner (1978-79) for the Rainbows football team. He graduated from Banning High School in Los Angeles in 1975.
Preston and his wife, Audrey, have three children: Amber, Evan and Quinn. They also have a son-in-law Will Brown and a grandson, Joseph Roman (J.R.) Kanoa Brown.
|THE AL PRESTON FILE|
|Hometown||Los Angeles, Calif.|
|Family||wife Audrey; children Amber, Evan, Quinn; grandson J.R.|
|Alma Mater||Hawai’i, 1982|
|1980-81||Hawai’i||Graduate Assistant (Wide Receivers)|
|1982||Hawai’i||Part-Time Assistant (Wide Receivers)|
|1983||Washington||Graduate Assistant (Defensive Backs)|
|1986||Southern Illinois||Defensive Backs|
|1994-97||Washington State||Running Backs|
|1998||UNLV||Assistant Head Coach / Off. Coord. / QBs|
|2002-04||Notre Dame||Running Backs|
|2007||New Mexico||Running Backs|
|2008-present||Georgia Tech||Wide Receivers|