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Geoff Collins exudes optimism, passion in advance of facing Irish

| Friday, October 30, 2020

Georgia Tech head coach Geoff Collins opened his weekly presser clad in a black t-shirt with the Georgia Tech logo and four bolded letters spelling out “V-O-T-E.” It is a nod to the NCAA’s announcement back on Sept. 16 that no football activities would be held across the country on Nov. 3 to allow athletes to vote. Collins was one of the early advocates of that proposal.

“I’ll be over there at McCamish Pavilion volunteering,” Collins said of his plans on election day. “[I’m] just proud to be a part of an athletic department that set the standard, that paved the way for the NCAA, giving student athletes across the country that day off to participate in the right to vote and to understand what an honor, what a responsibility it is.”

Collins cares about his players. He wants what’s best for them. In many ways, he’s like a juicer. He takes the approach that he thinks will be best to squeeze as much potential as he can out of his squad.

“If you go into a game, and you’re out there and you’re worried, ‘If I make a mistake, I’m going to get to the sideline, and that coach is gonna yell at me and he’s gonna scream at me and he’s gonna make me look bad,’ I’m not gonna go play my fullest,” Collins said. “So I make sure our coaches let our kids play at a high level. We coach them very hard and the right way, with character and class 365 days a year. When they get out on that field, I want them to cut it loose and play and know there’s a coaching staff on that sideline that loves them. One that believes in them, will not disrespect them and wants them to have freaking unbelievable success.”

Once Collins got rolling during his Tuesday press conference, it was tough for him to stop. He rambled on about his team’s last game against Boston College, a 48-27 loss in Chestnut Hill, and talked about developing personnel and his coaching method. By all accounts, it might have been difficult for a random passerby to tell that Collins’ squad was gearing up for a showdown with the No. 4-ranked team in the country, a team that could have a chip on its shoulder after dropping a spot in the polls despite a 45-3 win against Pitt last week.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport
Graduate student quarterback Ian Book attempts to stiff arm a defender in Notre Dame’s 45-3 win over Pitt on Saturday.

That was mostly because the final question of the presser was the first instance that anyone in the press conference uttered the words “Notre Dame.” Collins himself said those words only twice during the entirety of his press conference, both in answering that final question, otherwise alluding to Notre Dame as “a great opponent.” Of course, when he did speak of them, he spoke in glowing tones.

“It’s a really good roster. It’s a really good coaching staff,” he said. “They play physical, they play hard, there’s a lot of good things that we can say about them, and I will say about them because I’ve got a tremendous amount of respect for that program and how they play.”

Headlines frequently gravitate toward the Irish in virtually any of their gridiron matchups, even among the local media of their opponents. But in this case, the focus — albeit somewhat due to Collins’ often-longwinded answers that allowed for only seven questions in the span of 35 minutes — was focused on the Yellowjackets. That’s probably because, despite what their 2-4 record and record-setting loss to Clemson two weeks ago might suggest, Collins has his team in a position few thought they would be in.

The Yellowjackets came into the season with several sportsbooks setting the line for their win total at 2.5. They’ve managed to pull out some relatively unlikely victories against Louisville and Florida State, and were it not for a slew of turnovers against Syracuse and Boston College, they might actually have a winning record. And with a team just one-and-a-half seasons removed from running a triple-option offense, the Ramblin’ Wreck have looked better than the 3-9 train wreck they were in 2019.

“We come here, and it’s just a complete 180 from how things had been done,” Collins said of the contrast when he took over Georgia Tech after a two-year stint at Temple. “And I’m not saying that things were wrong. Everybody’s different. We do things in different manners; doesn’t make one right, doesn’t make one wrong. But it couldn’t be more polar opposites of how to run a program.”

Since taking over, Collins has begun the process of building a culture of accountability and hard work in Atlanta. While he has admitted they still have a ways to go, Collins is confident that the hard work players put in — which is necessary for a system in which “every single ounce” of playing time is earned — will pay dividends down the line.

“Here’s the advantage that we had when we walked in the door: There’s a bunch of great young men that are high character, that want to work hard, hungry for something and we came in and invested and poured every single day into their lives, and they continue to get better,” Collins said. “They continue to develop at a ridiculously high level.”

Collins even said that, going forward, the Irish provide a model for what he foresees his program becoming.

“Big guys that play physical, that have really good effort, are very athletic, have a good scheme that complements what they have on the roster,” Collins said of the Irish team. “And we will continue to build our [program] in a not-so-dissimilar manner.”

Despite the fact that this is just Collins’ fourth year as a head coach and he holds a career losing record of 20-23, he has confidence that the methodology he has cultivated — as a former Nick Saban assistant at Alabama and defensive coordinator at several stops — will lead to success.

“It has worked out for us everywhere that we have been, and will continue to work at a high level here,” Collins said of his and his staff’s coaching philosophy. “And as we continue to build depth, and continue to solidify things as we build this program, in the present and in the future, it is going to be the right way to do it. And I’m excited about the way our guys approach it every single day so that they are getting ready to compete and play at a high level against a great opponent on Saturday.”

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About Hayden Adams

Hayden is the former sports editor of The Observer. When he's not working toward his four majors (physics and film, television & theatre) and three minors (journalism, ethics & democracy), you can probably find him hopelessly trying to save his beloved Zahm House from being wiped out. He plans to attend law school at a TBD location after graduation.

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