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Johnson preparing staff at Tech

Tenuta's future with Jackets uncertain

POSTED: December 20, 2007 5:02 a.m.
ATLANTA — Navy moved quickly to name a successor to Paul Johnson, and that may help Johnson avoid delay in making decisions about his new staff at Georgia Tech.

Only one day after Johnson was named Georgia Tech’s coach, Navy named assistant Ken Niumatalolo as Johnson’s successor Saturday.

Johnson said Friday he planned to be back at Navy on Saturday to meet with his Navy staff. After Niumatalolo’s promotion, Johnson may have had more freedom to invite some Navy assistants to join him in Atlanta.

Niumatalolo was Johnson’s assistant head coach and offensive line coach.

Johnson said Friday he hoped to keep the "nucleus" of his Navy staff, but he correctly predicted his successor at Navy would come from the staff.

"That will be a little clearer probably after this weekend," Johnson said when asked about his plan for hiring assistant coaches.

A big question is the status of Jon Tenuta, Georgia Tech’s defensive coordinator under former coach Chan Gailey. Tenuta will serve as interim head coach for Tech’s Dec. 31 Humanitarian Bowl against Fresno State.

If Tenuta is uncertain of his chance to remain on Johnson’s staff, he may pursue other opportunities, including the newly vacated job as defensive coordinator at LSU.

Former LSU defensive coordinator Bo Pelini was named Nebraska’s head coach last week. LSU coach Les Miles has said Tenuta would be among those he would consider to replace Pelini.

Johnson said he hopes to meet with Tenuta and other Georgia Tech assistants "as soon as I can make that happen."

Johnson said he planned to be back at Georgia Tech today "and hit the ground running for Georgia Tech."

Georgia Tech athletic director Dan Radakovich said there was no discussion during the interview process with Johnson about retaining Tenuta.

"He wants to be able to pull together the best staff that he can," said Radakovich of Johnson. "I’m sure he’ll have an opportunity to speak with Jon.

"He knows a lot of the coaches. I think obviously every coach has people they feel most comfortable with. Certainly Jon’s work speaks for itself."

Georgia Tech finished the regular season with a disappointing 7-5 record, including a seventh straight loss to Georgia, but Tenuta’s defense leads the nation in sacks and ranks 12th against the run and in total yards allowed.

Radakovich said Johnson signed a seven-year contract worth more than $11 million.

Johnson said he will not coach Navy in its Dec. 20 Poinsettia Bowl against Utah in San Diego and also will not interfere with Tenuta’s preparation for the Humanitarian Bowl. Still, Johnson said he may watch the team practice, and players no doubt will be interested in impressing the new coach.

"This is something I think everyone around here had been waiting for," said quarterback Taylor Bennett. "Now we’re glad it’s over with. We’re kind of set and we have a future in mind. Now we can kind of look at that.

"We still have a bowl game to play, though, and that’s our focus right now and the main thing on everyone’s mind. We’ll try to put this aside until that game is over and then we can start over with everything that will happen."

Johnson, who was 45-29 in six years at Navy, also interviewed at Southern Methodist and Duke.

He said he would have remained at Navy if he hadn’t accepted the offer from Georgia Tech.

Johnson said he is excited to return to the state of Georgia after working at Georgia Southern as an offensive coordinator under Erk Russell and then winning the 1999 and 2000 national championships as head coach.

Overall, Johnson is 107-39 in 11 seasons as a head coach.

Johnson said he first met with Georgia Tech officials last Sunday.

"When I first met with the committee it seemed like a match made in heaven to me," Johnson said.

"It’s a dream come true for us. ... There’s probably not another program I would have left the Naval Academy for."


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