GREENSBORO — The cover of Georgia Tech’s media guide has a photo of new coach Paul Johnson, with the words "The Perfect Option."
Andrew Gardner agrees.
The standout Tech offensive lineman said he was uneasy at first with Johnson’s triple option offense, which he used with success at Georgia Southern and Navy. After all, Gardner’s strength has been pass blocking, and he feared a run-run-run scheme wouldn’t be the best way to showcase his skills to NFL scouts.
Gardner is completely on board.
"If it doesn’t work, it’s not going to be for a lack of us being behind it and trying to make it happen," Gardner said. "His consistent confidence in his own system kind of breeds confidence in others. And if you don’t like it, you can (complain) all you want. It’s not going to change anything. We want it to work, so we’re putting all our effort toward making it happen."
Johnson’s teams at Navy led Division I-A in rushing each of the past three seasons.
Gardner thinks his system will start a trend.
"Just like Urban Meyer had success with the spread option (at Florida) and that’s really spreading out through college football and catching fire, if we have a lot of success, a lot other teams will say they want to give it a shot," Gardner said.
Looking for leadership
Bitter rivals can think alike. Case in point: The way Miami and Florida State players are starting to demand more from themselves in an effort to get back to their winning ways.
Both schools — unbeknownst to the other — added player leadership committees this past offseason, hoping they will spur a turnaround from the mediocre records each has posted in the past two seasons. The basic tenet of both is that veteran players are the clear and active leaders of the locker room, trying to ensure that everyone is working together toward common goals and not burdening coaches with those tasks.
Florida State, which has a separate leadership council to decide lesser issues such as which warm-up music to play before games, chose about 11 players to serve as their committee members; Miami selected seven to serve after the entire roster was polled.
"It’s only going to make a program that much better," Florida State defensive end Everette Brown said Sunday at the ACC football kickoff. "You hear so much talk about getting Florida State back to the top, Miami back to the top. It has to start somewhere. And everything is in the now. What we do now as a program is going to affect us throughout the whole season. And with players taking ownership of the team, there can be nothing greater than that."
Coaches couldn’t agree more.
Florida State’s Bobby Bowden said last week that he’ll demand players be more responsible for themselves, especially after an academic scandal that hung over the team last season, in which the Seminoles finished with their second consecutive 7-6 record.
And Miami coach Randy Shannon said he’s in favor of players doing things like this, and was quick to point out that in some respects, it’s already had a positive impact on his program.
"It shows that people look up to you, but it’s also a big responsibility," Miami offensive lineman Jason Fox said. "You can’t let your teammates down. They’re like family. So when something’s wrong or something needs correcting, it’s your responsibility now."
Florida State’s player reps include Brown, Tony Carter, Darius McClure, Myron Rolle, Antone Smith, Ryan McMahon, Dekoda Watson, Derek Nicholson and quarterback Drew Weatherford, who found it interesting that Miami added a similar initiative.
"We’re in very similar situations," Weatherford said.
"You know, when you can’t find answers anywhere else, you’ve got to look to leadership and we take responsibility for that."
Miami’s voted representatives are Eric Moncur, Glenn Cook, Colin McCarthy, Chavez Grant, Khalil Jones and Dwayne Hendricks. The Hurricanes were 5-7 last year, their worst record since the probation season of 1997, and missed a bowl game.
"Leadership on this team is obviously something we’ve been needing, and I think it’s so much better this year than in the past," Fox said.
Here and there
The league’s preseason rankings will be released today, with Clemson seeming to be the probable pick to win the ACC championship in Tampa. "Expectations don’t change anything for us," Tigers quarterback Cullen Harper said. ... Coaches arrive to preview their teams today.