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Receivers feeling uneasy about new coach's offense

POSTED: December 29, 2007 5:02 a.m.

ATLANTA — A former Georgia player apparently will be one of the assistants who follows new Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson from Navy.

Navy receivers coach Brian Bohannon, who completed his career as a Georgia receiver in 1993 and also coached for Johnson at Georgia Southern, already has called several Georgia Tech receivers, including freshman D.J. Donley.

The calls were important, Donley and James Johnson said Monday, to help relieve concerns by receivers who fear they will have reduced roles in Johnson’s option offense.

Bohannon’s behind-the-scenes calls when he has not been named as a Georgia Tech assistant are just part of the potentially awkward transition period from former coach Chan Gailey.

Jon Tenuta, who was Gailey’s defensive coordinator, is serving as interim head coach for the Yellow Jackets’ Dec. 31 Humanitarian Bowl game against Fresno State in Boise, Idaho, Meanwhile, Paul Johnson already is at Tech, laying the groundwork for his 2008 team.

Paul Johnson attended about 30 minutes of Tech’s bowl practice on Monday, but Tenuta sounded surprised when asked about Johnson’s visit.

"Paul was out there today?" Tenuta asked. "OK."

Johnson has said he might attend some practices but would have no role in Tech’s bowl game.

"He can go watch practice or do whatever he needs to do," Tenuta said.

"He’s not in the way. Obviously, he’s got to see what he’s got. He knows numbers and faces but he’s got to have a chance to evaluate guys live and in color, not just off film. That’s only fair to him. I don’t have any problem with that whatsoever."

Tenuta said he has not had substantial talks with Johnson about the possibility of remaining on staff as defensive coordinator.

"Right now there hasn’t been a lot of discussion about anything," Tenuta said. "Obviously he knows I’ve got to get ready for Fresno, and he’s allowing me to do that. He’s the head coach and I’m allowing him to do what he needs to do to get started on Jan. 2."

Johnson has had one of the nation’s top rushing attacks at Navy, but the Midshipmen rank last in the nation in passing this season.

The idea of spending the next three seasons blocking for running backs could lead a receiver such as Donley, a freshman, to think about the possibility of a transfer.

The telephone calls from Bohannon were designed to convince Donley and others to give Johnson’s offense a chance.

"A lot of people said he’s just basically a running coach, and then I talked to (Bohannon) and he told me he will adapt to the kind of personnel they have," Donley said. "It should work out."

James Johnson, a junior, said it’s too late for him to think about transferring, but he said he’s heard that talk from other Tech receivers.

"You hear that all the time in practice, ‘I’m leaving, I’m staying, I don’t know,"’ said James Johnson. "We’ll just know by the spring or something, who all goes.

"I’m pretty sure you’ll start to see major changes right after the bowl, once (Paul Johnson) gets his staff in."

James Johnson said Navy’s meager passing statistics are "scary, a little scary."

"When we heard about him I did a little research myself and saw that Navy receivers didn’t have as many catches as we’re used to getting," said James Johnson, who said he’s already had a meeting with Paul Johnson.

"I talked to him and he said he’s open to passing the ball as much as he wants to run it. That makes us comfortable knowing he’s going to spread it out. I know he knows all the tricks about running, but I’m sure he’s going to pass, too."

Paul Johnson said he expects to retain part of his Navy staff, though some will remain at Navy with Ken Niumatalolo, who was promoted to the head job. Niumatalolo was Johnson’s assistant head coach and offensive line coach.

When asked about his plans on offense, Paul Johnson promised "We’re not going to try to put a square peg in a round hole."

"Our system is adaptable," he said. "We’ll take the system and try to mold it to fit the young men we have in the program."

Johnson emphasized the option "certainly" will be part of the offense.

"I think that’s our calling card and that’s what we’ve been very successful doing," he said, adding he didn’t think his scheme was much different than the option used as part of the offenses at such schools as Florida and West Virginia. Even so, some Tech players are having difficulty adjusting to the idea of a triple-option attack in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

"This is a hard conference and not too many people run that," said James Johnson. "I’m pretty sure he’s just saying that to trick people."

Asked to elaborate what he thinks the new coach is saying only as a trick, James Johnson said "About I’m going to run the triple-option or stuff like that.

"I don’t know. He might run it a little bit. I think he’s got more experience ... I’m not here to judge him.

"He’s probably got something up his sleeve. I’m pretty sure he does or they wouldn’t have got him. I’m trusting the staff that hired this coach and I’m going to trust the coach."


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