GREENSBORO, N.C. — Two years ago, the media asked…and asked…Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson if his option offense would work in a BCS conference.
He laughed it off nine times: the Yellow Jackets went 9-4 and tied for the Coastal Division lead.
Last year, the media asked…and asked…Johnson if teams would now be able to catch up to his option offense after having seen it the year before.
His response: people have seen it for more than 20 years and it’s worked fine. The Yellow Jackets went on to win the ACC.
This year, the only question Johnson was asked about his offense was what’s going to be the media’s hook.
“”Y’all will have to come up with something else,” Johnson said with a smile.
It would seem hard to top the 11wins, 33.8 points and 422.1 yards per game that Tech averaged last season.
If any of the players or coaches in the conference doubted the spread-based option in the past, they were saying all the right things at the ACC’s media days.
Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe, who said he always thought the offense would work, said Johnson may be the best ever at orchestrating the attack.
Even though the team lost B-back Jonathan Dwyer, the ACC player’s of the year in 2008, and Demaryius Thomas, who was the first wide receiver taken in the NFL draft this year, Grobe said the Yellow Jackets won’t slow down in year 3. The teams will play Oct. 2 in Winston-Salem.
“The personnel doesn’t matter, it’s the scheme that gets you,” Grobe said. “No matter what coaches know about stopping it, you can’t give everything you know to the players.”
The Deacons had some success against the Yellow Jackets last year. Despite giving up 463 yards, Wake forced Tech to overtime, where the Jackets won 30-27.
Grobe said that’s the perfect example of the difficulty in facing such a unique offense.
“We still weren’t good enough,” he said. “We had schemes that helped us, but we weren’t good enough. Let me put it this way: if you don’t have a good scheme, you’ll get blown out. If you have a good scheme, you might be competitive.
“They’re just a machine.”
At last year’s media day, former Virginia Tech safety Kam Chancellor said he thought he picked up something while watching film that tipped off what quarterback Joshua Nesbitt was going to do on each play. The Jackets rolled up 360 yards in offense and defeated the Hokies 28-23 at Bobby Dodd Stadium. This year, defensive end John Graves said he had nothing but respect for the what Yellow Jackets did last year, and what they could do this year. The teams will play Nov. 4 in Blacksburg.
“It’s a crazy offense that gets more difficult every year,” he said. “They won the ACC last year. Coach Johnson, he’s going to have another year with all those great athletes.”
Those great athletes are what Duke coach David Cutcliffe will keep fueling the spread-option armada, which he said is the same for almost any offense. Tech posted 519 yards in a 49-10 win last year. They will play Nov. 20 this season at Bobby Dodd.
“There’s no offense with magic,” he said. “No magic dust with a pro-style offense, or a spread or a wishbone. They are all sound.
“Georgia Tech will continue to have success as long as he continues to recruit good players.”
Johnson was coy when asked what he expects from his offense this year. He said he thinks the offensive line will play better, the B-backs and wide receivers are deeper and that Nesbitt has another year under his belt. The combination should make the offense better.
But as he’s fond of saying, he added, “we could play better but not win as many games.”
Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel faced Johnson and the offense twice last season, losing both times, including in the ACC championship game. His Tigers will get to host the Jackets on Oct. 23. He doesn’t expect to see anything different than what he saw last season, when the Jackets rolled up close to 900 yards.
“Paul Johnson is a great coach,” he said. “He walks around without a playbook. That’s his offense.”