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Sports Authority

Kolakowski: The triple-option must leave Georgia Tech with Paul Johnson

| Monday, December 3, 2018

On Wednesday morning, Georgia Tech announced that head football coach Paul Johnson would retire after the Yellow Jackets’ upcoming bowl game, marking the end of an 11-year run for Johnson in Atlanta.

The three-time ACC Coach of the Year brought his crafty triple-option offensive scheme to head coaching positions at Georgia Southern, the Naval Academy and Georgia Tech over the last two decades.

“After 40 years of coaching, it’s time to take a break,” Johnson said in an official statement. “I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished and am looking forward to having the chance to coach this team one last time at our bowl game next month.”

Johnson took over the Georgia Tech football program in 2008 after recording a 45-29 record at Navy, and he decided to install his unconventional offense with the Yellow Jackets after having so much success at the Academy.

Installing a triple-option offense is not a simple task. A coach must have the perfect personnel who are willing to buy into the system. Wide receivers have to be willing to block downfield. Quarterbacks must be able to run the ball and surrender dreams of prolific passing attacks. Offensive linemen have to adjust to run-blocking on nearly every offensive snap.

The unorthodox approach of the flexbone formation may be what makes it so hard to defend. Defenses are not accustomed to seeing it every week. Only a handful of programs like Navy, Army and Georgia Tech continue to run the offensive scheme.

Johnson was able to install his offense quickly at Georgia Tech, immediately leading the Yellow Jackets to a 9-4 season and a win over in-state rival Georgia in his first year at the helm. That win snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Bulldogs, and Johnson quickly endeared himself to the Georgia Tech fanbase.

In his 11 seasons at Georgia Tech, Johnson won three games against Georgia, each of which came on the road. He won the ACC Coastal division four times, including a 2009 ACC championship that was vacated by the NCAA due to allegations of players accepting impermissible gifts.

Johnson brought credibility to a sputtering program. Georgia Tech is not a dominant college football power by any means, but they continue to do well under Johnson and occasionally have a nice top-10 finish like they did in 2014. That being said, the triple-option offense must leave Atlanta when Johnson retires next month.

Georgia Tech does not need to hire away Jeff Monken from Army. They do not need to bribe Ken Niumatalolo away from the Naval Academy. The triple-option is useful for programs that cannot recruit enough talent for traditional offensive schemes.

The Yellow Jackets must ditch the triple-option and all the gimmicks it comes with. Instead, Georgia Tech must take advantage of its talent-rich state if it wants to be consistently competitive in the ACC.

According to 247Sports, there are 39 four-star and five-star recruits in the state of Georgia for the 2019 class. None of those 39 athletes are currently committed to Georgia Tech in the state capital.

A triple-option offense will not entice the talented pool of players in Georgia Tech’s backyard. Instead, top athletes are choosing to attend Florida, Ohio State, Clemson, Notre Dame and other college football powers rather than stay close to home.

A new offensive philosophy can revamp the Georgia Tech football program and attract local recruits. Sorry, Paul Johnson, but please pack your triple-option up with you when you leave Atlanta. It will do your former employer a favor.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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