Once again: Georgia Tech lacks a ’special’ brand of expertise

"My kickers might not be very good, but I do have a cool hat." (AP photo)

"Well, my kickers might not be very good, but at least I've got a cool hat." (AP photo)

Back in October, this correspondent suggested Paul Johnson and Georgia Tech would be wise to hire a full-time special teams coordinator. Being Paul Johnson, he wadded up the advice and hurled it toward yonder trashcan.

This was PJ, speaking the day after the outrageous suggestion saw print:

The whole thing is ridiculous. Guys calling for special teams coordinators don’t have any idea. You know how many teams in the ACC, SEC, Big 12 and Big Ten have special teams coordinators that don’t coach another position?

Six. You know who it is in our league? Boston College – which is helping them a lot – and N.C. State. And the Big Ten, it’s Purdue. In the Big 12, it’s Kansas State. I think it’s coach [Bill] Snyder’s son. Most staffs are set up the same as ours.

Coach Charles Kelly is quote-unquote the special teams coordinator, which means he collects and puts things together for the book. He has the punt team [and] punt return team. Other coaches are assigned areas of special teams. It’s been that way everywhere I’ve ever coached for 32 years. Sometimes, you’re better than others. It’s like Coach Kelly. I asked him today: Are you coaching the punt team any different than you did with [2007 second-team All-American punter] Durant Brooks? “No, coaching ‘em the same.”

Update: Georgia Tech lost the Sun Bowl to Utah in overtime after missing three field goals, yielding a 68-yard kickoff return (that didn’t hurt) and a 31-yard punt return (that engineered the Utes’ tying touchdown).

If you’re keeping score, that made two losses, Miami being the first, traceable to failures by Tech’s special teams. Yes, the defense yielded two late touchdowns to Utah, and no, Johnson’s offense couldn’t make a first down when one first down might have sealed the deal, but the offense gained 448 yards and the D held the Utes to 339 (and that’s counting overtime). Those units weren’t awful. Yet again, special teams were.

The only category pertaining to special teams at which Tech excelled this season was punt return defense. (Right up until its final punt of the year, anyway.) It entered the Sun Bowl ranked 50th nationally in kickoff return defense, 55th in net punting, 63rd in punt returns, 109th in kickoff returns. It finished 11 of 18 on field goals and didn’t make one longer than 41 yards. It had two blocked. It managed eight touchbacks on 80 kickoffs.

This wasn’t it just been a seasonal aberration. An incisive October post from Coaches By The Numbers illustrated the difference between the special teams of other prominent coaches — Nick Saban, Bob Stoops, Frank Beamer and especially Les Miles — and Johnson’s. And that difference, it would appear, translates to a game or two a year. At the highest level of college football, that’s a major gap.

Tech finished 8-5. Flip the two games undone by special teams –  of Miami’s three touchdowns, two came on a muffed punt and after a long kickoff runback near the end of the first half — and Georgia Tech would have been 10-3. That’s Top 25 territory, probably Top 15.

OK, and now you’re saying: Saban and Stoops and Beamer don’t have designated special teams coordinators, either. Neither do they employ Johnson’s stylized offense, which doesn’t keep him from doing it. (And please note that LSU, which is unbeaten in large measure because of its special teams, does have a designated coordinator.)

Me, I’d suggest Tech take one of its two offensive line coaches and make that position a special teams coordinator. (Don’t coaches — some coaches, anyway — say that special teams are one-third of football? Should that one-third be allocated piecemeal?) But that’s just me, and I’m guessing PJ would say I’m being ridiculous again.

By Mark Bradley

166 comments Add your comment

Big time???? NOT!

January 1st, 2012
1:39 pm

Four tickets four hot dogs four cokes.

Joey

January 1st, 2012
1:40 pm

Mark, you should know PJ is way, way smarter than you . . . and everybody else in the room.

J Clay

January 1st, 2012
1:41 pm

The world is now seeing CPJ is much over-rated….by the way MB maybe you want to update the article where you said he is a better coach than Richt? Do you still believe that? His one big season was with Gailey’s players…he still loses bowl games and still lose to UGA…status quo….

Anyway agree with your article and also think the Dawgs should have a full time special teams coach also.

Mark Bradley

January 1st, 2012
1:44 pm

I still think Johnson is a good coach. But do I still think he’s better than Richt?

Richt’s team is 10-3. Johnson’s is 8-5. This year, there’s no question who did the better job.

Mark Bradley

January 1st, 2012
1:46 pm

I’m in Tampa, by the way. Made it in time for the Mark Richt press conference.

GFF

January 1st, 2012
1:49 pm

THE Genius……0-4 in bowls at Tech.

steve brown

January 1st, 2012
1:49 pm

The forward pass is legal and effectively used by many a fine football team. Someone please explain this to Johnson. Many of us are becoming bored and frustrated with his style and would prefer a more pleasing type of entertainment.

Joey

January 1st, 2012
1:49 pm

Mark, just think where Tech, as well as UGA would be sitting with ST coordinators. Probably both would have games later in the bowl season.

I read where UGA was last in the SEC in punt return, giving up 4 TDs, while the REST of the SEC gave up 9 combined.

I’m thinking Richt is gonna study, cutting-edge-special-teams-football, this off-season. Haha.

Steve

January 1st, 2012
1:50 pm

Mark, do you think Tech will break the all-time record for most bowl losses in a row?

[...] he nailed this one concerning our special teams (our lack of a special teams coach is debatable): Once again: Tech's Johnson lacks a special brand of expertise | Mark Bradley I know special teams have cost us a few games this seasons, and the Sun Bowl was a microcosm of [...]

buzzwax

January 1st, 2012
1:51 pm

Better players = better special teams > special teams only coach. The 3-4 defense along with the spread option offense SHOULD put more special teams type bodies on the roster but it doesn’t seem GT is there yet. The biggest problem – THREE MISSED FG!! Make ONE and the game is WON!!

byrddawg62

January 1st, 2012
1:53 pm

Coach turkeyneck is a genius…..if you don’t believe me just ask him!

BananaJacket

January 1st, 2012
1:54 pm

Mark, respect your opinion and not taking up for Coach Johnson…and maybe Coach Richt did a better job, BUT any reasonable, knowledgeable fan would have to admit that Richt had a much, much more talented team (with far more depth) than Johnson. Richt’s schedule was not tremendously more difficult either.

At least Richt is willing to listen and make changes

January 1st, 2012
1:55 pm

Johnson, on the other hand, looks, sounds, and appears to be the smartest guy in the room. Coaching hubris!

Joey

January 1st, 2012
1:55 pm

Good point, buzzwax. Doesn’t UGA know it too (see SC).

J Clay

January 1st, 2012
1:55 pm

Jacket – who recruited the talent to each school? Is Johnson not responsible for that? As for schedules, was Tech’s difficult? Come on man

J Clay

January 1st, 2012
1:57 pm

Yes Joey and buzzwax – that is one thing both the schools have in common. UGA is in much need of special teams coach full time

Mark Bradley

January 1st, 2012
2:03 pm

There’s also no question Georgia was the more talented team, BananaJacket. I think 10-3 — or even 9-4 — would have been a great achievement for Georgia Tech this season. And the Jackets almost got there.

misterwax

January 1st, 2012
2:03 pm

I think old Bobby Dodd used to rely on his mentor Gen. Neyland at Tennessee…..Any team can move the ball and score… what matters is defense and the kicking game…playing for field position is one thing should not be over-estimated. This edge in field posotion allows the defense to shut down opponents more successfully, stretch the field to your advantage. CPJ does not seem to care about this…He’ll be gone soon and so will DRAD… Warm up the Greyhound, Chandler Gailey is coming back to Atlanta.

BananaJacket

January 1st, 2012
2:10 pm

J Clay–you make a good point re: recruiting but that is not the discussion here. And I made no claim that Tech’s schedule was difficult. I merely said that UGA’s was not all that MUCH MORE difficult, especially considering talent level. C’mon man!

Paul Johnson

January 1st, 2012
2:13 pm

I am still the smartest coach in football. Tech is a great service academy program.

yellow britches

January 1st, 2012
2:14 pm

Mark, I think you make a good point. CPJ seems oddly detached from every aspect of the football team but running his particular offense. You have said this before and I think it was pretty evident on the field yesterday. GT just does not have that many top flight athletes. When Julian Burnett went down the Utes started to run the ball with greater success. When Preston got hurt the dive just evaporated. I know Utah made adjustments and we did not have any answer, as has been the case much of year. We don’t have enough play makers and I just don’t get it. Why would a decent football player not want to come to tech. Engineering Schools used to attract men, you know real men. We complain about the curriculum but egads, are we all cowards when it comes to math? I am frustrated as hell. We should be doing better in a state that until Georgia State started recruiting only had one other first rate program in state. You know, Virginia used to export most of its football talent until Frank Beamer got there. Now they raid us.

Steve

January 1st, 2012
2:17 pm

Mark at least the AJC did not punish you and make you go to El Paso to do a live blog from the Tech game. Lucky for you, you get to go to Tampa to cover a real football team.

Bill

January 1st, 2012
2:19 pm

Paul Johnson is a moron. In Tech’s last two series prior to OT all he needed was a first down to win but he refused to pass the ball. With 10 men in the box he refused to throw and made nothing. He should be fired if Tech ever wants to return to respectability. No I am not a Georgia fan.Just a hard headed poor coach.

georgiadawg70

January 1st, 2012
2:19 pm

Coach Johnson,

Do you feel a slight increase in the temp of your seat this morning?

David S

January 1st, 2012
2:21 pm

We TECH fans just need to shut our mouth… 6-0 then end up 8-5!!! PJ must go now!! The whole damn staff needs to go… 37 years old been a Tech fan all my life, I must be insane. Would convert to a MUTT fan but so many of there fans are just idgiots… But then again a lot of my fellow so called TECH fans are nerdy losers who have not a lick of fight in them… No TECH cant be in the thick of things every single year, no one can, but the facilities are there, world class city, only thing missing is a requirement to achieve excellence… PJ has had time to bring in his players and when you see what’s coming, not to mention what has already been happening on the field… WOW!!! here we go again… Cant take in any more… Please Lord get it in PJ’s heart to admit he’s not up for this… All mouth he is…

P B Orr

January 1st, 2012
2:22 pm

The sneer and arrogance of CPJ has officially alienated this Tech grad. I’m almost as sick of those losers as I am of the dawggers (mom’s basement dwelling dawg fans).

georgiadawg70

January 1st, 2012
2:24 pm

BananaJacket,

In regards to your comment about Richt having more talent. Thats the point. Johnson can coach but he can’t recruit. Chan Gaily did a much better job of recruiting.
And the bad thing is next year all of his players will be gone.

HotAir

January 1st, 2012
2:31 pm

Another point – those teams without Special Team coordinators have far deeper talent. Teams like Ohio State, LSU, etc can make up for it with just superior speed and size in coverage.

ty webb

January 1st, 2012
2:32 pm

but, but, but, he’s a genius…just ask him…or Bradley.

bitter QB

January 1st, 2012
2:33 pm

as a dawg fan i would trade or give away aaron murry to tech if i thought tech would be better off

truth be known——-murry is 0-12 against top 25 teams—-he would run up # against bad teams

—————-telvin washington and aaron murry are —-2 peas in a pod

collegeballfan

January 1st, 2012
2:35 pm

I believe Johnson has always been reluctant to hand out scholarships for kickers and punters. Someone check me on this.

Also he tends to put the younger players on special teams to give them real game experience. I say put the 10 best tacklers on the team on the coverage units, the 10 best blockers on the return units.

But them I haven’t been coaching for over 30 years.

ty webb

January 1st, 2012
2:36 pm

I would give “murry” away too…Now Murray, I’d keep.

Dawg48

January 1st, 2012
2:36 pm

Bitter

Dude come up with something else!
All you do is post about Murray……

ty webb

January 1st, 2012
2:38 pm

and “as a dawg fan”, you’d know his name was Murray.

Worm

January 1st, 2012
2:40 pm

Paul Johnson wearing the Golden Sombrero is equal to Micheal Dukakis in a Tank!
Golen Sombrero-0-4 in Bowls-wear it proudly Paul-”Players just didn’t make plays”!

GIVE ME A BREAK

January 1st, 2012
2:42 pm

Defense gave up only 17 points in regulation after you subtract the pick 6. Offensive play calling in the 4th Q was awful. CPJ still needs some help calling short quick passes to use when the rushing game is stopped. I still like our players except for kicking. CPJ has one more year to prove that he’s a FBS coach.

Garyl

January 1st, 2012
2:44 pm

Bill Lewis about put GT into the Southern Conference, Gailey was so intimadated by Richt and now PJ thinks he has a Defensive Coordinator in Groh, that he plans on sitting on a 14 point lead and expects groh to hold them. PJ has to go along with Groh, next year which bowl do we lose in? Belk ? Music City ?, we havent been to those New Years Day bowls yet. Cant get recruits, because PJ only wants the super talent that Elon, Ball State, UAB or Troy offers. Need to replace Georgia on schedule with Ga. State, we will never beat UGA again–sad to say.

PJ

January 1st, 2012
2:45 pm

I knew GT was going to lose even ahead with 2 TD. PJ start making some extreme conservative play calling rather than running their ususal offense. Any other coach would have been fire with a 0-4 bowl record.

duronimo

January 1st, 2012
2:52 pm

Both Tech and UGA are enigmatic. Georgia rarely plays an entire game and Tech at times takes a whole game off. I watched Auburn last night. They looked fantastic. The play calling was truly innovative. Virginia played well too. In fact almost all the bowl games have been entertaining. That will end tomorrow when UGA plays yet another 1/2 game.

K

January 1st, 2012
2:53 pm

Good article, Mark.
And all that being said, Johnson is paid a lot of money to deliver more than he is delivering.
Just frustrating as a Tech fan.

K

January 1st, 2012
2:55 pm

Must decline any bowl game next year!
If even” bowl eligible.”

GT65

January 1st, 2012
2:55 pm

I’m for the first time since 1966 starting to lose all confidence in GT sports program except baseball and womens Basketball.

UGA = Yawn

January 1st, 2012
2:56 pm

Do I think Johnson is a good coach? Yes.

Do I want him as the GT coach? No.

Garyl

January 1st, 2012
2:57 pm

Is there a reason when you are 6-0, Orwin Smith is your leading rusher, but yesterday he handled the ball one time ????, PJ, do you remember the old saying, ” you stick with who you went to the dance with ?” Getting tired of Grohs 3-4 and PJ’s play calling, and wasting talent like Orwin.

UGA = Yawn

January 1st, 2012
2:57 pm

K, I agree. I actually think we should have declined a few others in the past also.

Garyl

January 1st, 2012
3:00 pm

GT65, Get ready for Danny Halls yearly choke. Every season, preseason top 10, every year in NCAA regional playoffs at his own home field, he chokes and GT loses to the number 4 seed. This season we are picked at No. 9, remember that when season ends with Hall losing the Atlanta regions.

Mark Bradley

January 1st, 2012
3:00 pm

I believe Orwin Smith was hurt yesterday.

Bozydeco

January 1st, 2012
3:06 pm

Mark – you are correct regarding special teams coordinator. Compare Tech’s game to Auburn’s game. As an Auburn fan at the game, anyone will tell you that it was the special teams which made the difference with 2 blocked punts, 1 onside kick recovery, 2 made field goals, and a long return. Oh, Jay Boulware is Auburn’s special teams coordinator.

Snellville Jacket

January 1st, 2012
3:08 pm

Come on, Tech fans. I was as frustrated as anyone after yesterday’s loss, but let’s get real. CPJ is averaging almost nine wins a season (2008 – 9 wins; 2009 – 11 wins; 2010 – six wins; 2011 – 8 wins). No other coach in Tech history has done this well in his first four years. Yes losing stinks, but fire PJ? You guys must be nuts!