When Geoff Collins was hired as Tech football’s head coach, change followed swiftly. Out went the triple option, and in came new assistant coaches, practicing routines and recruiting tactics. And the Jackets have seen returns there. Take the case of freshman running back Jamious Griffin, a four-star prospect who would almost certainly not be at Tech if not for Collins, or the two four-star prospects who have already committed to the 2020 recruiting class. Those acquisitions represent exactly the sort of in-state talent the program struggled to get in the late stages of the Johnson era.
But some changes will not be nearly so seamless, and Tech’s on-field product is one of them. Even from my pessimistic view of this season, I never thought the Jackets would lose to the Citadel Bulldogs. The Bulldogs are a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) team, a full level below Tech. Their highest-ranked recruit this year was a two-star prospect, per 247Sports.com. And unlike that Appalachian State team that stunned Michigan in 2007, the Citadel was not even a powerhouse at its own level — the team was winless heading into Atlanta.
Major upsets are not infrequent in college basketball. All it takes is a shooter from the underdog getting red-hot, a star from the favorite having an off night and a few lucky bounces. But in football, where every play is a matter of physical confrontation, teams with as much as a talent advantage as Tech had are supposed to dominate. Instead, the Jackets found themselves gashed by the same triple option they had practiced against every year prior.
In the aftermath of the loss, some were quick to blame Collins. The team played undisciplined football, giving away 45 yards of field position on unnecessary roughness penalties. It still does not have a starting quarterback, as Collins’ insistence on switching Lucas Johnson and Tobias Oliver repeatedly seems to indicate. And at the end of regulation, confusion between Collins, Oliver and the officials over when the clock would start running led to a wasted opportunity to win the game without putting the ball back in the Bulldogs’ hands.
And in fairness, Collins has made himself an easy target, especially to fans who appreciated Johnson’s quiet, no-nonsense approach. One shudders to think how Johnson would have responded if a reporter asked him whether the team would be holding up “Money Down” signs.
But despite the small civil war this game has sparked on Tech discussion boards, with Johnson loyalists and Collins revolutionaries clashing, I maintain that patience is a virtue, and of vital importance for a rebuild.
Collins hasn’t even had a full recruiting cycle yet. We don’t know what kinds of players offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude wants to fill out his offense or what defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker needs for his unit. The remainder of Tech’s schedule offers few candidates for likely wins, but this was never going to be a strong season for Tech.
And I think that ultimately, it will be worth it a few years from now, when Collins has truly made this program his own. So if patience is a virtue, let our moral strengthening begin.