If Paul Johnson doesn’t win the ACC’s coach of the year honor this season, the award shouldn’t be handed out.
Yes, Florida State remains undefeated, dodging bullets seemingly every week, and Jimbo Fisher has done a terrific job with that program, but Johnson has done the best coaching job in the conference this season. And it might be the best job he has done since he has been at Georgia Tech.
The Yellow Jackets weren’t picked by many to win the Coastal Division, which made sense considering Georgia Tech was coming off back-to-back seven-win seasons.
But with a really good new starter at quarterback, a Middle Georgia product as a dynamic weapon on the outside and an improving defense, Georgia Tech is right there: Coastal Division champion with a showdown with Florida State lined up in the ACC title game in a couple of weeks.
And that all starts with the job Johnson has done.
The Yellow Jackets got away from their identity last year, not running the option as much in their offense, and that made them much easier to defend and less dangerous overall.
This season, Johnson has gone back to the attack he knows -- with a quarterback who fits the system -- and it has worked.
Justin Thomas has played well throughout the season at quarterback, and he has run the option to perfection at times. DeAndre Smelter has been really good on the outside as the Tattnall Square product has given Thomas a deep threat to throw the ball to, and in the process, that has opened things up for the rest of the offense.
And the defense, while not great, has taken advantage of the opponents’ mistakes and has forced turnovers at a high clip in recent weeks.
It all adds up to a four-game winning streak, and the Yellow Jackets have won each of those games by 22 points or more. It’s a dramatic turnaround from the team that lost to Duke and North Carolina in October in consecutive weeks and appeared to be in some trouble.
Georgia Tech is a different team now, a more confident team, and it looks like a team that is ready for its two biggest games of the year: the annual rivalry game with Georgia on Saturday and then the ACC title game. The Yellow Jackets haven’t had much success against the Bulldogs recently, losing 12 of the past 13 and five straight, but this Georgia Tech team looks like it could end that streak.
ACC coach of the year or not, that would be something all Yellow Jackets fans would celebrate and recognize the job Johnson has done this season.
Contact Daniel Shirley at 744-4227 or firstname.lastname@example.org