After his historic 11-year tenure, Jackets head coach Paul Johnson announced his retirement from Tech football late last year. His departure raises many questions regarding the future of the team, including whether the new coaching staff can live up to the success of Tech’s winningest coach in more than 50 years.
The Jackets’ new head coach will be Georgia native Geoff Collins, ex-head coach of Temple. During his two-year head coaching position there, he led Temple to two bowl games and won the most games of any Temple head coach in their first two years. Collins is a defensive-minded coach — his successful two-year tenure as defensive coordinator at Florida is what landed him his first head coaching job at Temple. At Florida, Collins oversaw the No. 11 nationally ranked defense in 2015 and improved it to be ranked No. 6 in 2016. His prowess in coaching defense is promising for the future of Tech’s stop unit, which did not take a particularly large leap forward under Nate Woody last season.
On top of his defensive expertise, one of the most notable skills Collins brings to Tech with him is his ability to recruit. Recruiting top talent has been a challenge for the Jackets coaching staff in the past few years, but Collins has a proven track record in his ability to attract prospective players. He served as the Director of Player Personnel at Tech in 2007 where he recruited one of the highest ranked classes in the school’s history. In addition to Collins enhancing Tech’s recruiting appeal, he is expected to hire fellow 2007 Tech staff member and Alabama offensive line coach Brent Key as the Jackets offensive line coach Brent Key as the Jackets offensive line coach and perhaps as an assistant head coach. Key coaches one the best offensive lines in the country at Alabama, and he is ranked No. 2 in the 247Sports Composite Football Recruiter Rankings. While this hire is not confirmed and Key himself denied having personally spoken to the team, the AJC’s Ken Sugiura expects the move to be made official in the coming days. With him, Collins also brings new offensive and defensive coordinators to round out the coaching staff. The new defensive coordinator will be Andrew Thacker, who served as Temple’s defensive coordinator in 2018 under Collins. His defense enjoyed a very successful season with a nation-best eight defensive touchdowns scored, 18 interceptions, and 31 total forced turnovers. While Temple’s defense was not facing Power 5 offenses, coaching such a prolific defense in his first year as coordinator shows Thacker’s potential to be a great defensive coordinator at Tech as well.
Similarly, on the offensive side of the ball, Collins brought his offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude from Temple to Tech as well. Patenaude brings six years of offensive coordinator experience between his positions at Coastal Carolina and Temple, and he most recently led the 2018 Temple offense to be ranked No. 24 in scoring nationwide. Collins bringing his old staff from Temple to Tech should help the coaches transition and solidify their roles in the new coaching staff.
A final notable addition is running backs coach and Tech alumnus Tashard Choice, who held the same role for an offensively talented North Texas team last season.
As Collins and his staff sell recruits on the idea that the Tech offense is departing from the triple-option to a more pro-friendly scheme, Choice, a former NFL player, will no doubt be an invaluable asset.