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#TGW: Business As Usual

Aug. 27, 2014

By Jon Cooper
The Good Word

Paul Johnson doesn’t like the idea of being all things to all people.

In Johnson’s mind, being, or trying to be, a “Jack of all trades,” usually results in being a master of none.

“You can try to do everything but you’re not going to be any good at it or you can try to not do as much and be really good at it,” said Johnson at his weekly press conference. “Through the years, we’ve had a lot of success being good at what we do. That’s kind of my philosophy. I want to be good at what we do.”

The numbers back up his philosophy.

In his 17 seasons as a head coach Johnson’s teams have won better than 68 percent of his games (154-71, .684) and his Georgia Tech teams have succeeded at right around 60 percent (47-32, .595). He plans to stick with what has worked as he looks to improve on both marks, as well as making it seven straight home-opener wins for the Yellow Jackets on Saturday afternoon when Tech opens the 2014 season against Wofford. Kickoff at Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field is at 12:30 p.m.

Johnson pointed out that fans of variety and nuance can find plenty of both in his Spread Option Offense — of which the Triple Option is but one play therein.

“Trust me, there’s plenty of variance in what we do that it’s not the same play over and over,” he said. “When you see what you think’s the triple option, there’s eight to 10 variations. It’s not all the triple option. So, depending on how they’re playing, the way you block it, the way you change things. But you’ve got to be good at the fundamentals or it doesn’t matter. If you can’t read the thing and you can’t keep the ball off the ground it doesn’t matter.”

It also doesn’t matter that neither quarterback, redshirt sophomore Justin Thomas, who’s No. 1 on the depth chart, nor redshirt junior Tim Byerly, has ever made a start.

“The guys that we have playing quarterback can run our offense and I think they’re comfortable doing it,” said Johnson. “I feel good about Justin. He played a great deal a year ago and I think he fits what we want to do. He’s had a good spring camp, a good fall camp and for that matter, so has Tim Byerly. So I feel good about that position being able to deliver what we want to do with the offense.”

Part of the feel-good approach to the offense is that the Jackets “scaled back” on the offense — something done as much to ease in the six new starters. That means fewer plays being run out of the shotgun as they did last season. But scaling back should not be confused with watering down. In this case, fewer options of plays will be replaced by more options within plays. Call it getting back to basics, if you will.

“For probably 30 years, or as long as we’ve been doing it, we’ve stayed pretty true to what we do because it’s what we know,” Johnson said. “When I say, ‘Get back to that,’ that’s what I want to get back to. Not that we got totally away from it a year ago. The offense is not going to look different. Hopefully it will look a little different because you won’t be all over the place. We’ll run our base six or seven plays and hopefully we’ll be good at them.”

Precision matters not only in building good habits for ACC competition, but because the Terriers of the Southern Conference have a good idea what the offense looks like.

“Wofford would look like what we did a year ago,” Johnson said. “They’re in the gun about half the time. They’re under center half the time. In fact, they run a lot of the same plays that we ran out of the gun. Then they try to run some of the very same plays that we run under the center.”

No one can blame Wofford, or its Head Coach Mike Ayers, for trying to run the same kind of offense Johnson does. Johnson went 5-0 against Wofford from 1997 through 2001 when the two were Southern Conference rivals. Johnson’s Eagles outscored the Terriers,192-58 in those games.

The Jackets don’t care about how much of a mirror’s image they’ll see Saturday. They’re just happy to get a new season underway and play in front of what should be a huge crowd.

“I know the guys are ready to play somebody in a different color uniform,” Johnson said. “The first game of every season is always exciting. I think the guys look forward to it, especially when you have the chance to play at home. I can’t wait until Saturday.”

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