Johnson: Georgia Tech players were complacent in 2010

Paul Johnson's Jackets went 1-5 down the stretch, including a loss to Georgia. (Brant Sanderlin)

Paul Johnson's Jackets went 1-5 down the stretch, including a loss to Georgia. (Brant Sanderlin)

After 20 wins in two seasons, an ACC title and igniting a fan base that at times seemed to sit quietly at football games while waiting for basketball season to start – I know, it seems like a long time ago – Georgia Tech was cast in an unfamiliar role last season.

The Yellow Jackets were the hunted. They didn’t handle it well.

They went 6-7. They lost as many games in year three under Paul Johnson as they had in the first two (20-7). They went from ending the season in the Orange Bowl to ending it in the Independence Bowl. The cover of the Jackets’ 2010 media guide showed two hands clinched together, one wearing a jeweled conference championship ring. The caption warned, “Brace for Impact.” But what followed were 20 fumbles, the most in Division I, and an alarming lack of focus.

So much for being braced.

“I think there was a sense of complacency to a degree,” Johnson said. “Not with everybody. But when you win nine games the first year and then you win 11 games, I think some guys just think, ‘Well, this is going to happen again.’ It doesn’t work like that.”

Georgia Tech opens spring practice Monday. Complacency shouldn’t be an issue because there’s nobody riding a glorious hangover.

For some reason, the message was lost.

For some reason, the message was lost.

Failure and humiliation can be wonderful motivators. If Johnson’s players need any reminders of what happened in 2010, he can use video or his right foot, whatever works best. But apparently they’ve already gotten the message.

“Our guys aren’t dumb, they know what happened,” Johnson said. “We’re light years ahead of where we were last year at this time. We have a lot more togetherness as a group. You can see our focus, our desire. I can look out my office window [onto the practice field] and see guys working, doing things we didn’t do last year. There’s a different aura.”

Hard to imagine, but the Jackets were ranked 16th in the preseason last year. That ranking disappeared somewhere over the skies of Lawrence, Kansas.

They had built-in excuses. Demaryius Thomas, Jonathan Dwyer, Derrick Morgan and Morgan Burnett all went to the NFL. In the first half of the ninth game at Virginia Tech, quarterback Joshua Nesbitt was lost for the year with a broken arm (the Jackets were 5-3 at the time and the season hadn’t spun out of control yet).

But there were problems far beyond physical deficiencies. Some players didn’t lead. Others didn’t want to be led. It was not the mentally tough team we had seen play in the previous two seasons under Johnson. It seemed almost like the Jackets played with a sense of entitlement.

We saw it early when they lost to Kansas (which the previous week lost 6-3 to Division 1-AA North Dakota State). We saw it later, when they dropped five out of six to end the season, and committed four turnovers in the 14-7 bowl loss to Air Force.

A step back was expected. Not a step into this.

This will be a change. Johnson was the new guy in his first spring at Tech. People were excited. Then came the impressive first two seasons. One had to page back to the days of Heisman, Alexander or Dodd to find a coach who had a better start.

This is the first time his program is being asked to bounce back from misery.

“I think leaders will emerge this year,” Johnson said. “But like I said last year, you’ve got to want to be led, too. And if you’re  a leader, you can’t get frustrated if you think somebody’s not going as hard as they can. You have to keep pounding. If  a majority of the guys are doing the right thing, you’ll win out and others will follow.”

He’s looking forward to seeing the freshman class that redshirted last season, particularly running back Charles Perkins (”He has a chance to be a special player) and quarterback Synjyn Days (who will compete with the returning Tevin Washington). “We’ve got a lot of young guys we want to take a look at,” he said. “As a general rule, this is when you lay the foundation for the fall camp. Hopefully by the end of spring, we’ll have a pretty good idea what our two-deep is.”

More importantly, he’ll have a pretty good idea where their heads are.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

141 comments Add your comment

Tech Fan

March 25th, 2011
2:32 pm

This will be a anticipation filled off-season for GT. It might be interesting how things shake out, then again it may be scary.

BYRDDAWG

March 25th, 2011
2:37 pm

OK I know I’m gonna get bashed but does PJ EVER take the blame for ANYTHING that goes wrong????

Tech Fan

March 25th, 2011
2:40 pm

Why BYRDDAWG? Why?

Trip

March 25th, 2011
2:41 pm

He took the blame at the end of last season.

JLC

March 25th, 2011
2:42 pm

@ BYRDDAWG….I see your point, but I beleive because PJ has seen his system work for many years at all levels, he knows that if it’s executed well, the team will be successful. Execution was just not there last year.

Ramblin' Wreck

March 25th, 2011
2:43 pm

Byrddawg-

Ummm – he does all the time. I don’t know if this article used selected quotes or not, but go back to the end-of-season post-mortem interviews in January. He gave analysis like above – complacency, lack of chemistry, lack of player leadership. But then he flat out said: That’s my fault. I need to coach them up better. I need to figure out what to do.

There is a difference between a reason and an excuse. He gave the reasons, but did not use them as an excuse.

Tech Fan

March 25th, 2011
2:43 pm

There is no reason even to answer that…

cattledawg

March 25th, 2011
2:46 pm

How come he never mentioned how he kept putting his defense in terrible shape by going for it on 4th and 2 from his side of the field?

Brock

March 25th, 2011
2:47 pm

He stated time and time again he didn’t motivate and get the guys ready and focused to play. Instead of asking a question just to get your jollies how about researching first. You could have found the quote just about anywhere.

George Stein

March 25th, 2011
2:47 pm

Yes, he does, BYRDDAWG. I also think it’s challenging to call a guy that works 100+ hours a week complacent.

If we get anything out of the defense, we will win at least nine games. Say what you will about that high school offense, but more often than not it runs pretty well.

Tech Fan

March 25th, 2011
2:50 pm

Why are yall falling for the inbred’s comments….just talk GT football and ignore that guy

George Stein

March 25th, 2011
2:50 pm

The way our defense has performed the past two years, what difference would it make where an opponent started their drive. Might as well try to score.

By the way, you should read Scorecasting as it has some interesting stuff about going for it on fourth down. Punting in that situation actually reduces your likelihood of winning.

Brock

March 25th, 2011
2:53 pm

I found this in about 1 minute Byrd Dawg. See how easy it is.

This from Jan 7 2011- Paul Johnson end of season Press Conf.

On chemistry and leadership:

Football is still a team. You have to have talented players. I think we had some kids who were talented. But I think you have to mesh together as a team and you have to gel. That’s why I said during the year that I was frustrated because I’m accountable for creating that and I didn’t create it for whatever reason.

cattledawg

March 25th, 2011
2:53 pm

George, I think its great to go for it on 4th down sometimes, but I know there was a whole lot of you tech guys saying the same thing last year.

Brock

March 25th, 2011
2:55 pm

Goerge- to a degree i get where you are coming from but there were a handfull of times he should have punted.

Brock

March 25th, 2011
2:56 pm

sorry- George

George Stein

March 25th, 2011
2:57 pm

Just because Tech fans say it doesn’t make them right, cattledawg. We have our share of idiots too.

Anytime you do something unconventionally you open yourself up to criticism if it doesn’t work. That doesn’t make the decision leas right though.

DawginLex

March 25th, 2011
2:59 pm

I wish we had gone for it on 4th down in our bowl game…………

BYRDDAWG

March 25th, 2011
3:01 pm

@Tech Fan. I didn’t insult you I asked a question….The only times I’ve heard him interviewed he either blamed defense or theO’s lack of execution….Try to act like an adult and not insult me!!!!

George Stein

March 25th, 2011
3:04 pm

I guess we will have to agree to disagree, Brock.

The folks who instinctively believe we should punt on 4th down are probably the same folks who think the Braves (or perhaps Reds for DawginLex) should be bunting more even though both have been proven to reduce your chance of winning usually.

jelly in my belly

March 25th, 2011
3:06 pm

option has been figured out

Steve

March 25th, 2011
3:07 pm

Tech’s record this year will be 7-5, if that, with yet another loss to UGA. Gotta love it!

George Stein

March 25th, 2011
3:08 pm

You’re right, DawginLex. The decision to go for it against Tech on the play where y’all muffed the snap wasn’t wrong because it didn’t work. But Richt should have gone for it against UCF. And it probably cost y’all the game.

George Stein

March 25th, 2011
3:10 pm

Whatever you say, jelly in my belly.

Of course, by your definition every offense that has had a bad game has been figured out.

Simb

March 25th, 2011
3:11 pm

It’s funny how similar this article is to the one written about the Dawgs…both coaches and teams are very positive about where there are right now compared to last year. Let’s see which team actually is improved.

George Stein

March 25th, 2011
3:12 pm

We still get to play the games, right Steve? If so, I think we will take our chances.

cattledawg

March 25th, 2011
3:15 pm

I will say that unless you have the 85-86 bears defense you should not go for broke on your side of the field or around midfield when its over a yard.I dont care what scorecasting says cause you can manipulate numbers many ways. How young was techs defense last year?

ted

March 25th, 2011
3:16 pm

what is CPJ’s system on “D” His defenses all sucked at GSU and NAVY also FWIW.

UGASlobberknocker

March 25th, 2011
3:19 pm

I thought to be complacent about something, you had to first have a previous base of success in that certain something. How does anyone from Tech feel complacent about their football team? because of one good yr in 2009 ? that ended with what, three consecutive losses?.

Calling Tech complacent about football is like calling the Thrashers are complacent about their Stanley Cup chances.

DawginLex

March 25th, 2011
3:19 pm

Keeping the ball by running it down the other team’s throat can cover up a lot of defensive problems since your defense is sitting on the sidelines………………

Coach Paul Johnson

March 25th, 2011
3:22 pm

Ive gained some weight lately. I’m sure its because that wife of mine keeps cooking stuff, and also my workout coach has me on a bad program and has become complacent. But one thing is for sure. NOT MY FAULT.

George Stein

March 25th, 2011
3:23 pm

Read the book and then criticize it. If you disagree with them and can defend it, fine. But dismissing sething you haven’t read because it goes against The Book (whatever that is) is foolish.

We were experiences in the secondary, although you wouldn’t know it to watch us. On the line and at the LB spots, I’d say it was a pretty good mix of young guys and expereienced guys.

GT Anchorage

March 25th, 2011
3:24 pm

DawginLex, I see where your coming from. When you have a conservative coach, you always wish that he would go for it, but when your coach goes for it the majority of the time people get up in arms when the team doesn’t make it.

You can’t have it both ways, I prefer going for it. It keeps the games excited and away from a punt fest. Those types of games are so boring. The problem with last year was that the team couldn’t execute on 4th down, or any down for that matter. The offensive line couldn’t get any push. We started to see what the team was capable of in the North Carolina game, but all that disappeared.

By the way, if Johnson made it on those 4th downs, everyone would be calling him a genius like they were in 2008 and 2009.

Amos Alonzo Stagg

March 25th, 2011
3:24 pm

Hey Coach Johnson, isn’t that offense a tad old fashioned? I could show you the more modern Wing T..might work better for you..call me

George Stein

March 25th, 2011
3:27 pm

Agreed, DawginLex. It’s why I think if we get anything out of the defense we will be pretty good every year.

The same goes for y’all. There is no reason why y’all shouldn’t be able to do what Bama does and just hammer teams at the line. Do that and y’all will be just fine.

George Stein

March 25th, 2011
3:29 pm

The offense is just fine, Amos. But thanks for your offer.

Buckhead Dawg

March 25th, 2011
3:31 pm

What a joke. Nerds are gonna get pounded again in 2011.

George Stein

March 25th, 2011
3:33 pm

Thanks for the insight, Buckhead Dawg.

DawginLex

March 25th, 2011
3:36 pm

I get eggs thrown at me from my fellow Dawg brethren because I believe CPJ at UGA=National titles. No limits on talent base because of student curriculum, entrance requirements etc.

You might not get a Matt Stafford but you might get a Jamelle Holloway or a Tommie Frazier.

gdawginkalamazoo

March 25th, 2011
3:38 pm

George Stein, the great football oracle Steve, aka Stephen, aka Beelzebub has given Tech a 7-5 record for 2011, you shall accept that and find something else to do this fall.

ManUp...

March 25th, 2011
3:39 pm

This is going to be such an interesting year. Big home schedule with all the named rivals in our own stadium..plus Maryland and Kansas. Then add in all the questions and a “hungry” team with equally “hungry” fans and The Dodd should be rockin at the first game and plenty of others. Personally, I’m gonna need to see this “new attitude” in person. T-DAY is April 23rd and I cannot wait. I’d better see energy and big hits. We need to absolutely cremate our opponents at home this season to get the respect back. Pretty much the entire conference is on our revenge list after last season.

Go Jackets!

George Stein

March 25th, 2011
3:41 pm

I’m not sure whether I agree or disagree, DawginLex.

I would say that Richt has picked two bad years (2003, 2007) to have great years. The thing Johnson would bring to UGA that Richt doesn’t would be a “don’t eff with us” attitude.

ManUp...

March 25th, 2011
3:42 pm

* by the way, before I get the angry blarguments I said the stadium should be “rockin”…not “full”

gdawginkalamazoo

March 25th, 2011
3:43 pm

If we ran Tech’s offense I would prefer to go for it on 4th down. The defense will be p o’d that they have to face another down against the triple option, plus it is very hard to defend. Even harder when you are p o’d and thought you were done already.

George Stein

March 25th, 2011
3:43 pm

That made me chuckle, Kalamazoo. Hope you’re coming out of the freeze up there.

DIT

March 25th, 2011
3:44 pm

@Dawgin Lex – I just have to disagree with you on that one. Even being a Dawg I actually like CPJ. He has done good things for tech. However, and it’s just my opinion, everytime his offense goes up against a strong SEC or any strong defense they get shut down.(Not including my Dawgs on that comment)
I think both UGA and techs defenses will be better. We can talk Offense all day, but defenses with Championships. Both have a ways to go and many holes to fill. Good luck to tech this coming year!

DawginLex

March 25th, 2011
3:45 pm

All it would take is one year of success and elite running backs would be lining up to come to UGA and get 1,000 yards plus.

QB’s would be the hardest sell in recruiting but I believe he would tweak his offense to incorporate more of a passing game and less of a beating for the QB

I just want us to run the ball first in 2011 and not become all pass happy with no physical toughness.

Tech is still lacking in the D-line to compete with the tougher teams.

I still see 8-4 or maybe 9-3 for both schools

DawginLex

March 25th, 2011
3:46 pm

DIT, they don’t have the athletes at Tech on the lines of scrimmage to compete against LSU etc. We do. His offense would work at UGA with a little tweaking.

ManUp...

March 25th, 2011
3:46 pm

That is one of the great effects of the CPJ 4th down mind game. See, but when your A-backs take that and fumble it in the red zone when they’re well over the first down marker but have just gotten greedy the effects magically wear off. Then you miss an extra point and have to allow a touchdown to…ah nevermind…where’s my whiskey flask when I need it….?

gdawginkalamazoo

March 25th, 2011
3:48 pm

George, its going to be 20 here tonight. Probably snow next week.