Last spring, when Paul Johnson was installing his triple-option offense and no-nonsense principles into Georgia Tech’s football psyche, the Yellow Jackets were listening to their new coach, but they weren’t comprehending.
Instead, they were rumbling, stumbling, bumbling. Courtesy of youth and inexperience everywhere, they had a frequently ghastly spring of botched handoffs, fumbled pitches and more than a few players running left when they should have been running right.
It didn’t matter. The Jackets still won nine of 13 games. They also whipped their Great Satan from Athens, and they did so between the hedges. I mean, if you’re the rest of the ACC or into barking, this is pretty scary when you think about it.
Camp Johnson II opens Monday with a slew of returning starters and several others who actually understand their coach’s wishes this time around.
“The main thing we discovered after last spring is that all [Johnson] wants from us is effort and consistency,” said Tech running back Jonathan Dwyer. “If you need a break, just get [off the field], but he wants you to go hard on every play. It was a learning experience for us last spring on how to play as one unit and how to know who your leaders are. We also learned how to feed off of everybody on the team.”
Like Dwyer, for instance, who eventually sprinted his way to ACC Player of the Year honors as a sophomore. In fact, with the combination of his legs and Johnson’s rarely used offense at the Division I-A level, the Jackets became a rushing nightmare for opponents last season. Even so, they didn’t use most of their bogeyman plays.
“To be honest with you, we probably ran the same play 20 to 30 times about half the time we were out there,” said Dwyer, suggesting that, with a productive spring this time, the dust will fly from the pages deep inside Tech’s playbook. “The amount of plays that we actually can run is unlimited. It’s really unknown. That’s because it’s whatever comes into [Johnson's] mind, and he comes up with stuff just on the spot during games.
“Having the offseason to analyze the kind of players he has, we’re excited to see what he has coming into the spring. We want to see the passing plays he has designed, and the different formations.”
After that, the Jackets may see something else this season: a trip to the conference title game. Actually, Dwyer is thinking bigger than that. “We have a lot of guys returning, and everybody is really excited and anxious with the opportunity we have this year, because we want to beat Georgia, and be an ACC champion, and be a national-championship contender,” Dwyer said, before adding in a hurry, “But we have to start by getting through the spring, and then by getting better, and then by improving during the season.”
Sounds like the player hears and comprehends the coach. If Dwyer isn’t alone here among Jackets, that barking could become crying, for instance.