Thursday, January 07, 2010

Paul Johnson, a Tar Heel?

News & Observer college football reporter J.P. Giglio offered this tantalizing nugget in today's column:

After the 2006 season, Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson was a candidate for the vacant coaching jobs at both UNC and N.C. State.

Of course, the reason neither Triangle school jumped at Johnson, in the way UNC did at [Butch] Davis, is because of his option offense. It's different, it's practically antiquated and, depending on the recruiting target, it's unattractive. There's also the matter of it not working when opponents are given time to prepare for it.

Johnson is 0-4 against teams coming off an open date, including two bowl losses when the opponent had a month to get ready.

But in the other 23 games, Johnson has 20 wins and an ACC title, which is something neither State nor UNC has won in 30 years.

I've been fascinated by Johnson's success at Tech, and wonder if he can keep it up. As Giglio suggests, it can be difficult to lure recruits to a BCS school that plays the triple option, especially offensive players who have aspirations of professional careers. If you throw the football no more than 10 or 12 times a game, linemen don't learn pass blocking, receivers don't get to catch many passes, and quarterbacks get beat up.

That may be a big reason schools with major talent run the option only sparingly. Johnson inherited a lot of talent from Chan Gailey. Can he continue convincing four- and five-star kids to come to Tech, knowing that their chances of playing in the NFL may be limited by the system they play? Or will Johnson have to set his sights on kids with lesser skills and "coach 'em up?"

To be sure, though, if Butch and Tom O'Brien continue delivering teams that play .500 ball and Johnson's clubs compete for BCS bowls (even if they lose), the natives will be justified in getting restless.