Paul Johnson on Tech’s recruiting: ‘Ask again in three years’

A-back Orwin Smith: A good player, but an impact player? (AP photo)

Tech A-back Orwin Smith: A good player, yes, but is he an impact player? (AP photo)

Some folks live to follow recruiting. Paul Johnson, who makes his living in a business tied to recruiting, isn’t among them. Here’s the Georgia Tech coach on the sport-within-a-sport:

“It’s kind of been blown out of proportion a little. Certainly [recruiting] is important, but you’ve got people hanging on every word. I think crowning a guy before he’s played a [collegiate] down is a little premature.”

I know what some of you are saying: Easy for Johnson to claim  recruiting isn’t a big deal, but would he feel the same if the Rivals.com rankings were reversed? If Tech’s class were rated the nation’s seventh-best and Georgia’s the 40th-best?

Being Paul Johnson, he would. He’s a  pragmatist of the first rank, and a bit of a contrarian. When asked a question, he often begins his response with, “Oh, I don’t know …” or “Not really.” He’s a football lifer who has seen pretty much everything, and one thing he knows is that, in football as in life, things aren’t always what they seem.

Johnson: “We did a study about the ACC, and it showed that more teams teams ranked in the bottom half of the conference in recruiting played in the championship game than those ranked in the top half. And yet you’ve got people ready to cut their wrists [over recruiting].”

Also: “I don’t think anyone really knows how hard a guy is going to work. Some guys have reached their peak; some guys are just scratching the surface. And people talk about ‘impact players’: A very small number of guys are ‘impact players.’ Go back to last year’s [Tech] group, where we had two guys go in the first round. [Receiver Demaryius] Thomas was redshirted as a freshman, and [defensive end] Derrick Morgan didn’t have a great freshman year. But they became playmakers.”

The issue of impact, or the lack thereof, is a Tech hot button. The Jackets plummeted from a 2009 ACC title to an Independence Bowl loss because of an apparent absence of difference-makers. Would Johnson concede that, with the famous 2007 recruiting class assembled by predecessor Chan Gailey all but gone, his program lacks top-end talent? He would not.

“As good a football player as [B-back] Johnny Dwyer was — and he was a great player, the ACC player of the year [in 2008] — he really didn’t play much as a freshman after his first four games. I just think as those kids worked, they got better.”

Gailey’s 2007 class was ranked 19th-best by Rivals, marking the only time Tech has cracked the Top 40 in the past decade. With this class at No. 40,  it would seem the Jackets have done well by their standards but not quite as well as they’d have liked. Johnson’s take: “I think it’s going well, but ask me again in three years … It’s like a coach once told me: ‘They all came highly recommended.’ But you don’t know how hard they’re going to work.”

Will work alone be able to lift Tech back above .500? Or has a post-Gailey talent gap developed that Johnson — whose first three recruiting classes were rated 49th, 49th and 43rd by Rivals — has been unable to close?

Johnson:  “We’ve got some good young players. We’ve redshirted some offensive linemen. [A-back] Orwin Smith made an impact; he had some big runs. And [outside linebacker] Jeremiah Attaochu had a better freshman year than Derrick Morgan. I don’t know if he’ll be as good as Derrick, but it’s possible he could be. ”

If it wasn’t an diminution of talent that led to 6-7 after 11-3, what was it? “We didn’t turn the ball over as much the year before, and we didn’t lose our quarterback [Joshua Nesbitt] … But you have to make your breaks. We did the year before, like Josh snatching the ball back at Florida State. Anytime something happened last year, it went the other way.”

That said, a coach is paid his million(s) to win games, not say, “Gee whiz.” Paul Johnson is nothing if not a results-oriented guy. But you’ll pardon him if he doesn’t see Signing Day, in this or any year, as a true result.

“You want to judge recruiting?” Johnson said. “How many games did you win? That’s the best bottom line.”

By Mark Bradley

288 comments Add your comment

Mark Richt

January 30th, 2011
1:57 pm

NRBQ

January 30th, 2011
2:01 pm

Didja ask your favorite coach about the $75K bonus for losing to a service academy, Mark?

Concern

January 30th, 2011
2:02 pm

Certainly had more talent when coach Johnson arrived than now. No doubt.

Mark Bradley

January 30th, 2011
2:02 pm

Kudos to Coach Richt.

GTSteve

January 30th, 2011
2:05 pm

Thanks for the article Mark, this offense can work, but Tech really needs a stud quarterback..and needs better D-Line and Line backers

Not Disappointed!

January 30th, 2011
2:06 pm

Good Read! This fall shall tell!

Mark Bradley

January 30th, 2011
2:06 pm

Can’t run this offense without a bit-time QB. And you can’t win — at least you can’t win consistently — without a defense.

buzz fart

January 30th, 2011
2:07 pm

certainly tech recruiting does not matter with the genious coaching ability–they coach up, unlike some schools in this state–but in the end who cares about high school records.

Dostoveyskiy

January 30th, 2011
2:08 pm

If recruting were that important UGa would have swept the past three w/Tech by more than 1TD margin. Instead, Tech won at UGa 2 years ago, and was barely defeated the past two years, including a 1-TD loss while playing w/2d string, inexperienced, lowly-rated QB. Keep on recruiting those 4/5 stars UGa, maybe you will have a winning season soon.

G

January 30th, 2011
2:10 pm

If the guy doesn’t win more games he may not be around 3 years from now. He is such an excuse maker, though losing Nesbitt didn’t help, is he saying he just does not have the talent to make up for losses? Quit making excuses, you just did not have a very talented team last year. Some good recruits could help with that.

catsFly

January 30th, 2011
2:10 pm

Coach, you’re wrong. If you had UGa’s recruits you would be slamming UGa instead of coming in a very close 2d. That’s clear to even the most dense of observers.

cptzzggyy

January 30th, 2011
2:10 pm

1. College recruiting is similar to the pro draft in that kids sign contracts for millions before they ever play a down of pro football.
2. Based on the recruiting rankings, Tech should never even be a threat to UGA on the football filed.
3. Johnson is right about the lucky bounces of the ball. In any game between evenly matched teams, luck plays a huge role.

2012 FEAR THE END

January 30th, 2011
2:12 pm

Heard That!!

GTGuy44

January 30th, 2011
2:13 pm

Gay and Mark Richt you both are lame and immature beyond belief. Losing Giff Smith I think has hurt recruiting and Johnson is extremely hard headed. We need much better talent on defense. With some more talent I think Coach Groh can produce a very good defense. I will admit that Johnson gets tremendous mileage out of a not super star offensive line. It was really impressive the way Allen ran the ball against Georgia with them knowing that we probably were not going to pass. If we do not get a quarterback who can both run and throw effectively we are in big trouble. Also, it is incredibly pitiful that Hill and the other wide receivers have terrible hands. How many times do we see a receiver have the pass hit his body before his hands. Coaching certainly has something to do with that. We must get a QB that can throw better as well as run. Look at the kid at Michigan for example who came out of Florida no less.

Coach Hewitt...

January 30th, 2011
2:15 pm

Tuitt, Caldwell, Jackson & now Flowers have decommitted …Something is rotten on the flats…losing defensive recruits is bad news. Guess Groh’s Superbowl ring ain’t all that impressive..

Gt

January 30th, 2011
2:15 pm

Hey mark..No matter how much coach johnson stresses recruiting is not everything. Look back at your past national championship winners. They all have very good classes.

Jacket Man

January 30th, 2011
2:15 pm

For those who haven’t already heard by now, Trey Flowers, GA Tech’s most recent “commitment” took a secret trip to Arkansas and committed there this past weekend.

Obviously his desire for an Engineering Degree wasn’t so great afterall.

Bob

January 30th, 2011
2:16 pm

Big Tech fan here, but, Paul Johnson is not still at Navy or Ga Southern anymore. Maybe he needs to change a few ways he recruits a little. I’m afraid his policy of not allowing a kid who commits to make visits is hurting us and being used against us. It also looks like he is looking for those kids he got at Navy and made into his type of player. I’m not sure that works at Tech. Navy gets a different type of kid, one not looking to be in the pros for sure. The kids at Navy also are used to taking orders and doing that. I know Paul Johnson can coach. I just think maybe he needs to change the way he recruits some if we are gonna stay at the top. Less was expected at Navy. Their schedule is easier too. Paul Johnson did a great job with Chan’s recruits maybe he needs to look at what Chan was doing in recruiting. Chan was a terrible coach and needed to go but he did do a good job recruiting. Maybe PJ needs to look at what Chan did and use some of that.

HS coach

January 30th, 2011
2:18 pm

Ask Carolina and Auburn what they think about recruiting. Johnson can spin it anyway he wants but Tech needs an up grade in talent. They got no players.

todd grantham

January 30th, 2011
2:23 pm

Mark, what do you mean a team can’t win without a defense?

todd grantham

January 30th, 2011
2:25 pm

and Tech will never be able to compete consistently on a national level unless the admissions standards, shall we say, continue to be relaxed.

No Crying

January 30th, 2011
2:26 pm

AS usual Boise State didn’t even make it into the top 50. Out here in Idaho, our little team has done well with picking up players the big boys overlook and deem not worthy. Recruiting is grossly overrated. Walk quietly , fly under the radar and get the players that want to play. Go after players with heart and initiative and you will do fine. I am from Atlanta and my dad attended Tech so I have always been a GT fan. I believe Coach Johnson is doing just fine. I can’t wait for next season when the Broncos come down to Georgia, with our crop of second rate and overlooked recruits.

todd grantham

January 30th, 2011
2:29 pm

is his quote about 3 years not in the body of the article? sounds like PJ is making the assumption he’ll be around at Tech in 3 years. in reality Mark, you may have a heck of a time even finding the man in 3 years.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark Bradley and william quinn, ChuckOliverGaTech. ChuckOliverGaTech said: RT @MarkBradleyAJC: Paul Johnson on how #GaTech's recruiting efforts are faring: "Ask me again in three years." http://bit.ly/hOnpFn [...]

Mark Bradley

January 30th, 2011
2:31 pm

The “ask me again” quote is indeed included above.

GTfan01

January 30th, 2011
2:33 pm

The recruiting rankings are a bit overblown when it comes to Tech or UGA for that matter. Here’s proof:

Going back to 2002, here are Tech and UGA’s recruiting class rankings per rivals.com:

UGA:

2002-#3
2003-#6
2004-#6
2005-#10
2006-#4
2007-#9
2008-#7
2009-#6
2010-#15
2011-#7 currently

GT:

2002-#55
2003-#50
2004-#52 (with Calvin Johnson and Daryl Richard)
2005-#54
2006-#52
2007-#18
2008-#49 (Transition class from CCG to CPJ)
2009-#49 (21 commits)
2010-#43 (18 commits)
2011-#40 currently

So while Chan Gailey cracked the Top 50 twice in his entire tenure at GT (2003) & (2007) he supposedly could recruit? Why, because he found some “diamonds in the rough” who turned into NFL players like Wheeler, Walker, Butler, Matthews? I think the proof shows CCG really had one good class (2007), and had a couple great players he found that people missed out on (Jonathan Smith, PJ Daniels, etc).

On the flip side, Paul Johnson has had 3 real recruiting classes on his own (counting this year) where he still can’t sign a full class until next year. In that time, his classes have each moved up the recruiting rankings chart. This class isn’t done, and has a real chance to finish with boom. 3 major players are still possible which would propel Tech into the Top 30-35 range. Solid.

What’s UGA’s excuse for the lack of success? The so called mythical “Dream Team” is currently ranked where UGA’s normal classes rank. The truth is, CMR is running out of gimmicks in Athens. The hype from 2007 was a bust, and it’s been all downhill since. If I was a UGA fan, I’d hope this class is as highly rated as the hype of some of the players suggests, so maybe the next coach will have a roster full of talent he can attempt to take to the next level.

Steve

January 30th, 2011
2:37 pm

Hey GTFan, and in those years, how many times has Tech beat UGA? Thought so.

Jesup

January 30th, 2011
2:39 pm

I think PJ is a Great coach, and he CAN and WILL do more with less. I am a Dawg fan but after watching him at Georgia Southern and Navy, I am a CPJ fan…….Go Dawgs.

JMar

January 30th, 2011
2:40 pm

Gotta love the contradictory logic being applied by posters. They argue that 1) recruiting rankings don’t matter, i.e., they’re not necessarily accurate assessments of the players, b/c if they did UGA would beat Tech by more than they have been (seriously, your trash talk has devolved to “you can’t win the SEC” and “you should beat us by more points”?). They also state that 2) Tech has better coaches. So I’d love to hear how Tech is better at coaching players up AND has better players, and yet UGA wins every year. The levels of denial are truly astounding.

By the way, three years later, it looks like CPJ’s first recruiting class stunk. Tech fans had better hope the rankings don’t matter, because so far CPJ has done a pretty lousy job “coaching up” the majority of the three-star recruits from that year. Maybe he’ll have better luck with this year’s two-stars.

G

January 30th, 2011
2:41 pm

GTfan01… you do realize you lost to that same over hyped UGA team? A 6-7 UGA team?

Jesup

January 30th, 2011
2:42 pm

The Recruiting ranking correspond to which teams fan base has the most rivals….scout…..or Espnu Subscriptions…..except Tom Lemming who always has Notre Dame #1 in Recruiting…. Go Dawgs

todd grantham

January 30th, 2011
2:45 pm

yes, i see the quote now.

who do you consider on shakier ground: Paul Hewitt or Mark Richt?

GTfan01

January 30th, 2011
2:45 pm

G…You do realize I was referring to the 2008 pre-season #1 hype machine which was the beginning of the end for CMR right?

Proof was shown above. So again, please show me where this so called “Dream Team” gimmick class is any different then any other class UGA has brought in? I’d think by now CMR would realize his gimmicks like the black shirts don’t work anymore.

GTfan1957

January 30th, 2011
2:48 pm

Don’t know who these 3 secret recruits are you think we pick up. Erique Florence & Darian Cooper ain’t coming to Tech, & we’re not flipping Tuitt again, forget them… We’ll finish recruiting without a single 4* recruit this year… We have only 1 recruit ranked higher than 29th at his position. 4 players ranked between 29th & 50th at their position..Also have 13 players ranked 72nd or worse at their position… Terrible, terrible class, there’s no way to spin this…

G

January 30th, 2011
2:48 pm

What “gimmick” the class has not even all signed so right now on Jan. 30th it is no different then the 40th ranking Tech has.. In regards to the 2008 #1 hype, wouldn’t it be great if GT was EVER in that type of conversation?

UGA 92

January 30th, 2011
2:50 pm

CPJ needs to create a passing game before all else. Tech fans should be embarrassed with such a one dimensional offense. UGA’s recruiting class is ranked 7th right now, but we have yet to sign some of our highest rated prospects: Isaiah, Pagan, Richardson, Jenkins, etc.

Steve

January 30th, 2011
2:50 pm

You did not answer my question GTfan01. I understand you are sad because you are a Tech fan. I would be too! Half empty stadium, terrible team, always loses to UGA, no women, crime everywhere, etc. You are just a typical jealous Tech fan. Tech will ALWAYS be second in this state. That’s a fact.

GTfan01

January 30th, 2011
2:53 pm

GTfan1957,

It’s time you start paying for subscriptions to real sites and stop reading the free content and fluff from gojackets.com. Who in the hell is Erique Florence? No one has even mentioned the kid.

Cooper is in play. I guess you missed that Jabari Hunt-Days is a 4* player right? Do everyone a favor, and go tell your boys at GoJackets.com to stop posting BS information. They have become the joke when it comes to the 3 services covering GT recruiting. Getting back to the main point, there is some good news coming in Tech’s favor. Just watch.

Jesup

January 30th, 2011
2:54 pm

Lack of a Pro Style offense does not help GT on the offensive side of the ball.. and I think that they made the worst DC hire possible. GT needs a young DC who will beat doors down and try to sign the 4 star Defensive recruits. With the ball control offense and a stout D, Tech could own the ACC..

destin dawg

January 30th, 2011
2:56 pm

his offense can’t work if there is no passing game…. high school.coach… his recruits have offers from Troy, Middle Tenn., Ga. So. UAB. maybe Vandy or Duke ???

GTfan01

January 30th, 2011
2:57 pm

Hey Steve,

2008. You know the pre-season #1 hype machine? That UGA team. Also, keep on talking. Fact is, UGA will never win another National Championship in mine or your lifetime. Enjoy that one and ONLY National Championship 31 years ago! LOL

Gt

January 30th, 2011
2:57 pm

But hey steve..in our historys…Who has more national titles? THOUGHT SO

Mark Bradley

January 30th, 2011
2:58 pm

I think Hewitt is in real trouble unless his team makes a big run. And that could be in its formative stages

GTfan01

January 30th, 2011
2:59 pm

Jessup,

And fat a^% Grantham was a good hire? The guy was FIRED the last time he was a DC. What does that tell you? Truth is, UGA struck out twice when trying to hire a new DC last year, so please don’t try and spin it that Grantham was the one and only choice.

Steve

January 30th, 2011
3:00 pm

Ha ha. What are you? 15? What a loser! “UGA will never win another National Championship in our lifetime?” You obviously don’t know college football. Did you know that just two years ago Auburn did not even go to a bowl game? UGA will be fine. All programs have bad years. Did you not notice Texas this year? Don’t take your anger out on me. Not my fault you like the worst college football team in the state.

Steve

January 30th, 2011
3:01 pm

“Gt” are you serious? Are we really going to talk about the past like that? I could care less who has more national championships. How about you focus on the head to head record between Tech and UGA? You can look at last year, the last ten years, or the whole series. Plus I would LOVE to see Tech play in the SEC.

destin dawg

January 30th, 2011
3:03 pm

most of these kids can’t get a degree in Engineering… don’t want to live in metro Atl… like girls and a social life…. I’d say normal college kids ???? PJ fits better at Ga. Southern….

bob

January 30th, 2011
3:07 pm

PJ WILL NOT BE HERE IN THREE YEARS!!CHARLIE STRONG WILL SOON LEAD GEORGIA BTECH.AND THE GOOD NEWS IS THAT HE WILL RECRUIT GREAT PLAYERS AND WIN BIG.FIRE PJ THE FAT SLOB!!!!!

Phil

January 30th, 2011
3:11 pm

We all know PJ is gone.I like Skip Holtz or Charlie Strong.This is PJ last season and I am ecstatic the stone age idiot will be gone.H

GTSteve

January 30th, 2011
3:14 pm

@UGA92…you do realize that nobody has “signed” anybody yet…we are still in Jan …signing day is usually in Feb