Paul Johnson has retired after spending 40 years in the football coaching business. When Coach Johnson left Navy to come to Georgia Tech I thought like many that his offense wouldn’t work in the ACC. Then the Jackets put up a million yards on Randy Shannon’s defense and proceeded to play for ACC Championships and in the Orange Bowl. Johnson didn’t have winning consistency, but he did win 82 ball games in 11 years in Atlanta, GA.
After a 7-5 season in 2018, Johnson has decided to retire from Georgia Tech. The Jackets administration now has a solid foundation on which to build, even if it’s a roster built for a service academy offense. Previous attempts to move on from the option have been handled with both successful and tragic results.
The successful would be the transition at Oklahoma in 1999 from an option to an Air Raid scheme with Mike Leach at the helm. The Sooners used a JUCO transfer quarterback in Josh Heupel who eventually won the national championship in 2000 at OU, although without Mike Leach calling plays. Less successful transitions have existed as well- think about Nebraska and Bill Callahan’s west coast offense. Frank Solich is enjoying a renaissance at Ohio as the bossman of the Bobcats.
The candidate that have been mentioned that I would assume aren’t going to happen are Neal Brown, Geoff Collins, Willie Fritz and Ivan Jasper. Georgia Tech should interview Brown but I don’t see him leaving Troy for Georgia Tech when a return to Texas Tech could be on the table. I would assume that’s Brown’s major focus right now. Collins and Fritz haven’t exactly dominated at their current stops, Temple and Tulane, respectively. Ivan Jasper has no head coaching experience and I’m not sure if the Jackets are looking to stay in the triple option- but if they are it’s not with a guy with no prior head coaching experience.
Ken Whisenhunt, L.A. Chargers Offensive Coordinator
I don’t watch a ton of NFL football but many have said that the Chargers current offense under Whisenhunt and Philip Rivers has been a renaissance of new energy from the duo. The 36 year old Rivers has completed almost 70% of his passes while throwing for over 3100 yards and 26 touchdowns in 11 games. Rivers is on pace to throw 38 touchdowns which would be the most in his NFL career.
Whisenhunt is a Georgia native who played his college football at Georgia Tech. That gives him NFL experience and Yellow Jacket pride that apparently the GT admin seeks in a new hire. Coach Whisenhunt hasn’t coached at the college level since a 1995-1996 stint with Vanderbilt. Whisenhunt would bring a Super Bowl ring from his time with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the experience of two NFL head coaching stints, although his career record is 48-71.
Whisenhunt could be more of a Pete Carroll than a Herm Edwards. Carroll came to USC as their head football coach after bottoming out of the NFL. He then won two national championships at USC before also winning a Super Bowl ring with the Seattle Seahawks.
Miami Impact: 5/10. Whisenhunt hasn’t recruited since 1996, and has been a failed experiment as a head football coach in the NFL. The odds of him being anything more than Lovie Smith or Herm Edwards are yet to be seen, but this feels more and more like what is going to happen at Georgia Tech. Time will tell if he can adjust to college players, and the hang-ups that come with coaching students.
Scott Satterfield, Appalachian State Head Coach
Satterfield, known for the fast rise of success the Appalachian State Mountaineers have had under his regime, would be a great hire for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Satterfield has hardly spent time outside of Boone, NC in the past decade or so but he did have coordinator stops at Toledo and at FIU. Satterfield has done a great job of developing the Mountaineers under their small school circumstances and the Jackets off a tough academic situation to recruit in.
Satterfield’s scheme is based in the shotgun but he focuses on using an option offense so there won’t be a huge schematic or personnel disparity from what he’s used to. The App State offense uses motion and option pitches in order to outscore opponents. Quarterbacks Zac Thomas and Taylor Lamb before him are dual-threat passers. Thomas threw for 1800+ yards with 18 scores and only four interceptions while adding 400+ more yards on the ground and eight touchdowns.
Obviously the ‘Canes have faced the Mountaineers recently with a 45-10 win over ASU in 2016.
Miami Impact: 7/10. Satterfield will create a program that knows how to compete on a national level and can give bigger, faster opponents fits like ASU did to Penn State in 2018. He’s a winner and knows how to build a winner.
Tony Elliott, Clemson Offensive Coordinator
Elliott is currently the Clemson offensive coordinator who has helped to develop the Tigers in recruiting as well as on offense. He replaced Chad Morris, the former offensive coordinator, and has continued the offensive success at Clemson- even with Kelly Bryant at QB and obviously has worked hard in developing true freshman Trevor Lawrence to an undefeated rookie season in 2018.
Elliott would bring an instant recruiting impact to Atlanta as the Tigers are used to grabbing players in Georgia, Virginia, and North and South Carolina. The offense would be different than the flexbone triple option as Clemson likes to run an 11 personnel offensive scheme. Recruiting would upgrade but he’s also used to lower academic standards at Clemson compared to Georgia Tech.
I’m a firm believer that the Jackets need someone with prior head football coaching experience and that’s what they want, too. But Elliott’s name has been floated and would be interesting as a hire in Atlanta. Mark Richt’s in-roads to Atlanta have been nearly eradicated between Clemson’s influence there and Kirby Smart’s stranglehold as it is.
Miami impact: 6/10. Elliott’s lack of prior head coaching experience could spell a disaster for the Jackets as other first-year coaches to power 5 moves haven’t always worked out. Even if Dabo Swinney has worked out for Clemson, it’s a struggle to jump right into the role at an ACC school.
Brian Bohannon, Kennesaw State Head Coach
Bohannon is a Georgia native who played for the Bullodgs, and has coached the triple option at stops like Georgia Southern, Navy, and Georgia Tech before taking the Kennesaw State head football job. The contingent in Atlanta that wants to keep running the triple option want Bohannon and not Jeff Monken or Ivan Jasper. I can’t see the Tech admin staying with the flexbone but if they do, Bohannon seems to be the choice.
The positives on Bohannon are he started the Kennesaw State program and they finished year three in the FCS Playoff Quarterfinals and in year four are back in the FCS Playoffs. Bohannon has accumulated a 36-11 record there, but again, it’s an FCS school and not even a Group of 5. The differences between KSU and GT will be vast in the land of recruiting and responsibilities that a head coach must take on as an ACC head ball coach.
Miami impact: 4/10. I have zero worries for the ‘Canes about the Yellow Jackets retaining the flexbone triple option and hiring an FCS head coach to replace Paul Johnson. Manny Diaz has done a good job of stopping the triple option and if the offense can get right Miami will score enough points for the plodding system to not matter (think: UGA vs GT 2018).