Collins is kind of hire Tech needed

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - SPORTS - Mark Bradley

This is the kind of hire Ge­or­gia Tech needed to make. Ge­off Collins, At­lanta-born, has been a head coach. (Al­beit only for two years, but those count.) He has worked in the South, so he knows what re­cruit­ing down here en­tails. He has worked at Tech, which means he won’t ar­rive and then, three months in, say: “I never knew this is how things worked.”

That shock of ar­rival has hit many Tech coaches in many dif­fer­ent sports. To re­it­er­ate: Tech is dif­fer­ent. It cares about aca­demics. Its cur­ricu­lum isn’t broad-based. It’s the Ge­or­gia In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy, as op­posed to a univer­sity that of­fers a bit of ev­ery­thing. It doesn’t solve dips in ath­letic per­for­mance by sim­ply throw­ing more money at them. Col­lege foot­ball bor­ders on fa­nati­cism; Tech seeks to be cir­cum­spect in all things, which can be tough when you’ve lost four of five to Duke.

Said Tech ath­letic direc­tor Todd Stans­bury, speak­ing Fri­day night at a long-de­layed me­dia brief­ing: “I needed some­one who would em­brace Ge­or­gia Tech.”

Collins spoke of his de­layed flight from Philadel­phia, which en­tailed a blown tire by the air­craft in front of them on the run­way — “One of those planes Snoopy would fly,” he said — and then 40-mph head­winds. “I was like, ‘Let’s go’ ... Then I thought, ‘you’ve been wait­ing 22 years to be the coach at Ge­or­gia Tech. We can wait a lit­tle longer.’”

Un­der Ge­orge O’Leary, Collins was a grad as­sis­tant. Un­der Chan Gai­ley, he was the re­cruit­ing co­or­di­na­tor who helped wran­gle Tech’s best batch of signees — Joshua Nes­bitt, Jonathan Dwyer, Der-

rick Mor­gan and Mor­gan Bur­nett — this cen­tury. He worked at Alabama as direc­tor of per­son­nel un­der Nick Sa­ban, the tree from which lat­ter-day coach­ing branches grow. He did a stint at Cen­tral Flor­ida as lineback­ers coach and re­cruit­ing co­or­di­na­tor un­der O’Leary again, then to Mis­sis­sippi State as de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor un­der Dan Mullen, then to Flor­ida as DC un­der Jim McEl­wain.

And then to Tem­ple. He re­placed Matt Rhule, who left for Bay­lor to try to clean up that mess. Collins went 7-6 in his maiden voy­age. This year the Owls went 8-4 af­ter start­ing 0-2. They beat Mary­land, which nearly beat Ohio State and did beat Texas. They beat Cincin­nati, which was ranked No. 20 in the As­so­ci­ated Press poll and would fin­ish 10-2. They led UCF, which hasn’t lost to any­body since De­cem­ber 2016, 34-28 at half­time. They beat Hous­ton and scored 59 points do­ing it. They’re bound for the In­de­pen­dence Bowl to face ... why, Duke. (Collins won’t be coach­ing, though. He’s a Tech guy now.)

Stans­bury: “In the in­ter­view, he started with brand . ... He was re­ally speak­ing my lan­guage. I knew he was a heck of a re­cruiter, and I wasn’t sure if I was be­ing re­cruited. But he did a heck of a job.”

Collins: “The first thing we think about is brand. ... Re­cruits choose brands, and our brand should be as strong as any in the coun­try.”

We don’t need to dip back into the Ken Whisen­hunt is­sue, ex­cept to say: A ca­reer NFL coach would have faced a learn­ing curve at any ma­jor pro­gram, and Tech is trick­ier than most. With the ex­cep­tion of one sea­son as an as­sis­tant at a North Car­olina high school, Collins has been a col­lege coach since he played his last sea­son as a West­ern Car­olina line­backer, which was in 1993. Apart from the past two years in Philadel­phia, he has been based in the South since 1999.

Still a lo­cal boy

And he is, not in­ci­den­tally, an At­lantan. “I was born in DeKalb Me­mo­rial Hos­pi­tal,” Collins said. “I grew up on Columbia Av­enue in De­catur. I went to school in Cony­ers at Rock­dale County.”

He con­cluded his re­marks by hold­ing up his notes. “This will be the last time I write any­thing in red,” he said. (Good line.)

Is he a Big Name on the or­der of Mike Leach? Or, heaven for­bid, Lane Kif­fin? No, he’s not. But he’s a solid coach who has learned his trade at places that take the sport se­ri­ously, and when he got the chance to hang out his own shin­gle, he went 15-10. There’s no Ge­off Collins trade­mark — he didn’t in­vent the of­fense he uses — be­yond, in his words, “an NFL-based of­fense and an NFL-based de­fense.”

Will that be enough for him to win big at Tech? Un­know­able. Next sea­son will be rough. Ow­ing to Paul John­son’s spec­i­fi­ca­tions, the of­fense will, duh, re­quire a com­plete makeover, and it’s doubt­ful Collins will in­herit much of what he’ll need. Tech’s re­cruit­ing class is ranked 51st na­tion­ally in 247 Sports’ com­pos­ite in­dex. The early sign­ing date ar­rives Dec. 19, which leaves Collins less than two weeks just to hold those al­ready committed.

That, how­ever, would have been true no mat­ter who Tech hired. Credit to Stans­bury for not hir­ing some fla­vor of the month. (If Collins’ name was men­tioned in any other search, I missed it.) Credit the AD for not try­ing to cram a Tech alum into a job that wasn’t a fit. Whisen­hunt was some­one for the Jack­ets to in­ter­view, but he wasn’t a guy to hire. Collins was a guy to hire.

And if he doesn’t come with the cham­pi­onship

‘Re­cruits choose brands, and our brand should be as strong as any in the coun­try.’ Ge­off Collins New Ge­or­gia Tech head foot­ball coach

siz­zle that Tony El­liott would have brought from Clem­son … well, Tech isn’t Clem­son. (Ask Dan Radakovich, who has looked at that part of life from both sides now.) And El­liott, who’s among the na­tion’s sharpest as­sis­tants, is 0-0 as a head coach. This will sound like faint praise, which isn’t how it’s meant, but here goes: All things con­sid­ered, Ge­off Collins is as good as the Jack­ets were go­ing to do. And they’ve done it.

CON­TRIB­UTED BY PHIL SKIN­NER

Ath­letic Direc­tor Todd Stans­bury (left) in­tro­duces Ge­off Collins as Ge­or­gia Tech’s new head foot­ball coach at a press con­fer­ence on Fri­day.

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