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Holloway: No questioning Tech coach
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You can see the disinterest on Paul Johnson’s face before the question is even finished. He’s not trying to hide it.
Somebody else — a reporter, no less, who probably wouldn’t know a pulling guard from a punch in the face — has another question about his offense.

Did he expect to have so much success in his first year at Georgia Tech?

The first time he’s asked, Johnson looks like he wants to flip the table over on the poor scribe.

“There’s always going to be doubters, no matter what you do,” he said. “I knew it’d work if we do it right, and if we don’t do it right it won’t work. Just like any other offense.”

Is it any easier recruiting this year now that he’s had some success in a major conference?

“I think most of the guys who play the game, they knew that (the offense) would work. That was more of a doubt for the guys sitting on edge who had all the answers.”

How about the passing game?

“You guys have talked more about that than I have. Our goal is to try to score more points than the other team and do what we have to do to win the game. If that means throwing the ball more, we’ll throw the ball more.”

Two hours later, after he’s answered countless similar questions with sarcasm and wit, he’s asked if he’s tired of the questions about the quirky offense that brought the Yellow Jackets such success last season.

For the first time all day, Johnson gets almost sheepish.
“Well, I don’t know,” he said with a faint chuckle, finally breaking eye contact with the questioner. “It’s all just part of the job.”
Johnson has been described as testy with the media. I’d say it’s more like defensive. And it’s understandable.

In each of the above questions, there’s one answer the veteran coach always comes back to: tenure. 2008 may have been his triple-option offense’s debut in the ACC, but Johnson’s track record is more than 25 years long.

He’s been a successful college coach since he ran the University of Hawaii offense in the late 1980s. He’s been a head coach for 12 seasons and has averaged almost 10 wins per year. He won two Division I-AA national championships at Georgia Southern, his Navy teams regularly led the nation in rushing, and he’s the reigning ACC coach of the year after a 9-4 debut with the Yellow Jackets.

But far from vindicated, every question seems to affirm that he’s still got something to prove — at least in Johnson’s mind.

In reality, he’s already made believers out of just about everybody. Most preseason publications have the Yellow Jackets ranked in or around the top 15 teams in the country, usually a couple of spots ahead of Georgia, and they’re expected to push Virginia Tech for the ACC Coastal Division championship.

They’ve got 18 starters back, including the ACC Player of the Year Jonathan Dwyer, as well as the offensive line combination that started in Georgia Tech’s last four games of 2008. During that span, the Yellow Jackets rushed for an eye-popping 343 yards per game, and Johnson said quarterback Josh Nesbitt may be the most improved player on the team.

But the questions keep coming.

Will defenses be more prepared to stop the Jackets the second time around?


“Could be. We’ve been doing this offense for what, 26 years? So they’ve got 26 years of film on us, not just one. We played the same teams at Georgia Southern the five years I was there and we won the league every year, and I think if you look at the points per game, we probably got better each year. They’re going to get better at defending it, we’re going to get better at running it, too.”

So far, Johnson’s had all the right answers.
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