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Georgia Tech Football head coach Paul Johnson met with the local media after the Yellow Jackets win over Presbyterian
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Paul Johnson, who has led Georgia Tech to five bowl games and two ACC Championship Game appearances while breaking records with his spread option offense, enters his sixth year with the Yellow Jackets and his 16th year overall as a head coach.
The only person ever named ACC Coach of the Year in his first two seasons in the league, Johnson has compiled a record of 40-26 in five seasons on the Flats. Johnson won more games in his first five seasons than any coach in Georgia Tech history. Over the last five seasons combined, only Virginia Tech has won more ACC games than Johnson's Yellow Jackets.
In 15 years overall as a head coach, with previous stops at Georgia Southern and Navy, Johnson owns a career record of 147-65. Only 13 active FBS coaches have won more games and only 12 coaches have won at a higher percentage.
The mastermind behind Georgia Tech's high-octane spread option offense, Johnson's teams have ranked in the top four nationally in rushing offense each of the last five seasons. Since 2008, Georgia Tech has rushed for more yards than any team in college football. Over the past five seasons combined, the Yellow Jackets have rushed for more than 20,000 yards -- or the equivalent of 11.4 miles.
What Johnson has accomplished at Georgia Tech has been remarkable:
Last season Georgia Tech struggled to a 2-4 start, which included a pair of heart-breaking overtime losses to ACC Coastal Division rivals Virginia Tech and Miami. But the Yellow Jackets turned it around the second half of the season, erupting for 68 points at North Carolina en route to winning four straight conference games. By the time the dust cleared in late November, Tech was crowned Coastal Division champion and played in the ACC Championship Game.
Statistically, the Yellow Jackets produced more yards of total offense and rushed for more yards than any team in school history, and averaged a school-record 40.0 points per game in conference play. The 7-7 season culminated with an upset with over Southern California, 21-7, in the Hyundai Sun Bowl.
In 2011, Georgia Tech exceeded all expectations. After being picked to finish fourth in the ACC Coastal Division, the Yellow Jackets went 8-5, 5-3 in the ACC, and played in a bowl game for the 15th consecutive season.
With just 10 scholarship seniors on the roster, Tech bolted to a 6-0 start, setting school, ACC and NCAA records for offense along the way, and rising to as high as 13th in the national polls. In October, the Jackets handed sixth-ranked and eventual ACC champion Clemson a 31-17 loss in Bobby Dodd Stadium, a win that eventually helped Tech earn a bid to the Hyundai Sun Bowl.
In 2010, the Yellow Jackets -- who lost four juniors to the 2010 NFL Draft and played the final four games without injured quarterback Joshua Nesbitt -- finished 4-4 in the ACC and led the nation in rushing offense for the first time in school history. Two Yellow Jackets -- senior center Sean Bedford and senior running back Anthony Allen -- were named first team All-ACC in 2010.
The 2009 season was one of the most memorable in Yellow Jacket history despite fielding one of the youngest rosters in college football (just six scholarship seniors).
After a mid-September loss at nationally-ranked Miami when the Yellow Jackets played their third game in a 12-day span, Tech reeled off eight consecutive victories including a 5-0 record in October when it played four road games. A convincing 49-10 win at Duke on Nov. 14 clinched the ACC Coastal Division crown, then Tech defeated Clemson for a second time, this time in the ACC Championship Game in Tampa, Fla. That game was later vacated due to NCAA sanctions.
Tech, which reached a national ranking as high as seventh, played in the FedEx Orange Bowl, its first appearance in a major bowl game since 1962. Along the way, the Yellow Jackets rolled up mind-boggling numbers on offense, ranking second nationally in rushing offense (295.4 ypg) and third in time of possession (33:49).
Prior to the start of the 2008 season, Sports Illustrated projected Georgia Tech to finish 3-9 and the ACC media picked the Yellow Jackets to finish fourth in the Coastal Division. However, Johnson directed Tech to a 9-4 record, a share of the Coastal Division title and a Chick-fil-A Bowl berth. Johnson's first Yellow Jacket team beat three nationally-ranked opponents - Florida State, Miami and Georgia - over the final four games of the regular season. The win over Georgia snapped a seven-game losing streak to Tech's in-state rival.
Johnson's first season at Georgia Tech was remarkable for a number of reasons. Not only did he and his staff install completely new offensive and defensive schemes, but Johnson inherited one of the nation's youngest rosters, which included 76 freshmen and sophomores. The last one-third of the season, 16 of Tech's 22 starters were freshmen or sophomores. He also took over a program low in scholarship numbers, well below the maximum of 85, the lingering effects of distant NCAA penalties.
The 2008 team also suffered more than its share of injuries. Twelve opening-day starters combined to miss 31 games because of injuries. In a September road game at defending ACC champion Virginia Tech, the Jackets started a walk-on freshman at wide receiver. A few weeks later, Tech started its third-string quarterback as the result of injuries to starter Joshua Nesbitt and back-up Jaybo Shaw.
Almost as soon as Johnson was hired, the pundits questioned if Johnson's option-based spread offense would work on the BCS level. Those questions came even though Navy had racked up mind-numbing offensive numbers, leading the NCAA in rushing three straight years from 2005 to 2007, mostly against ACC and other BCS-level competition.
Johnson quieted those critics almost as soon as the 2008 season kicked off and certainly after Tech closed the regular season by combining for 86 points and 881 rushing yards in games against nationally-ranked Miami and Georgia. The Yellow Jackets, with freshmen and sophomores manning every skill position and behind a patch-work offensive line, averaged 273.2 rushing yards per game, ranking fourth nationally and first in the ACC. Georgia Tech also led the ACC in total offense (372.5 ypg).
Johnson enjoyed success as the head coach at Georgia Southern (1997-2001) and Navy (2002-2007) before being named Georgia Tech's 12th head coach on Dec. 12, 2007. Johnson coached six years at Navy, where in 2007 the Midshipmen won a fifth straight Commander-In-Chief's Trophy, earned a postseason bowl bid for the fifth consecutive year and beat Notre Dame for the first time since 1963. Johnson was a finalist for the 2007 Liberty Mutual National Coach of the Year.
In six seasons at Navy, Johnson compiled a record of 45-29.
Johnson took over a Navy program that was coming off the worst two-year span in its 123-year history (1-20) and had recorded just two winning seasons in the last 20 years. After a 2-10 mark in Johnson's first year, the Midshipmen achieved what many thought was no longer possible at an Academy. Johnson brought the Midshipmen back into the national spotlight with a 43-19 (.694) record over his last four-plus years.
Johnson dominated the other two Service Academies like no other coach in the school's annals, posting an 11-1 (.917) overall record, including a perfect 6-0 mark against rival Army. His 2007 senior class was the first in school history to post a perfect 8-0 mark against Army and Air Force.
Johnson's Navy teams improved as each season progressed. Over his last five years, Navy posted a 13-2 (.867) record over the final three games of the season and outscored the opposition 611-335 in those contests. In games in which Johnson had more than a week to prepare for an opponent, the Midshipmen went 15-6 (.714) over his last four years combined.
The Midshipmen led the nation in rushing in 2007 for an unprecedented third consecutive year, producing more than 350 yards per game. Under Johnson, Navy never finished lower than third nationally in rushing offense. Navy ranked among the nation's highest-scoring teams in 2007, averaging 39.92 points per outing. The 2007 Mids also ranked in the top 10 nationally in kickoff returns and in fewest sacks allowed.
Navy ranked No. 1 in the country in graduation rates during Johnson's tenure. In 2004, Johnson was named Bobby Dodd National Coach of the Year after leading Navy to a 10-2 record, tying the school record for wins set in 1905, and won a bowl game (34-19 victory vs. New Mexico in the Emerald Bowl) for just the fifth time in the history of the program.
In 2003, Johnson led Navy to an 8-5 record and brought the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy back to Annapolis for the first time since 1981, propelling Navy to a bowl game for the first time since 1996. The Mids became just the sixth team in NCAA history to go from a winless season to a bowl game in two years or less.
Before arriving at Annapolis, Johnson served as head coach at Georgia Southern from 1997 to 2001. At Georgia Southern, Johnson posted a 62-10 (.861) record, won two straight I-AA National Championships (1999 and 2000), five consecutive Southern Conference Championships and was named the Division I-AA National Coach of the Year four straight years (1997-2000).
After Johnson took over as head coach at Georgia Southern in 1997, he returned the Eagle program to national prominence statistically and in the won-lost ledger. In addition to Georgia Southern's 62-10 mark, the Eagles scored 2,855 points (39.7 points per game), picked up 25,941 rushing yards (360.3 yards per game), 7,816 passing yards (108.6 yards per game) and 33,757 total yards (468.8 yards per game). GSU scored 380 touchdowns in the Johnson era, an average of 5.3 per game. The Eagles' scoring margin under Johnson was +21.5 (39.7-18.5).
Johnson picked up a milestone victory in the 2000 I-AA National Championship Game against Montana. Not only did the 27-25 victory give Georgia Southern its second straight national title, but it was also Johnson's 50th career win in four seasons. Only three other coaches in the history of Division I football won 50 or more games in four seasons -- Walter Camp (1888-1891, 54-2 at Yale), George Woodruff (1892-1895, 53-4 at Penn) and Bob Pruett (1996-99, 50-4 at Marshall).
Johnson took over a Georgia Southern program in 1997 that was 4-7 the previous year and orchestrated a turnaround that ranked among the NCAA's best, directing the Eagles to a 10-3 record. He was named Southern Conference Coach of the Year by the media and Region II Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association.
In 1998, Johnson guided the Eagles to a perfect 11-0 regular season record and the school's sixth NCAA Division I-AA National Championship Game appearance before finishing with a 14-1 mark. He directed a high-powered offensive unit that tied or broke 100 records during the campaign, again earned the league's top coaching honor and received The Sports Network's Eddie Robinson Award -- symbolic of the division's national Coach of the Year selection.
In 1999, Johnson brought Georgia Southern its fifth national title, and the Eagles finished 13-2 while breaking 197 records. For his efforts, Johnson was honored as the 1999 AFCA and Chevrolet I-AA National Coach of the Year. Johnson duplicated the feat in the 2000 season as the Eagles repeated as national champions, again finishing 13-2, and Johnson captured the AFCA I-AA Coach of the Year award once more.
In five seasons at Georgia Southern, Johnson's squads broke or tied 379 individual and team school, conference, playoff or stadium records, ranked in the top 10 in 21 statistical categories and produced 31 All-Americans. The Eagles won an NCAA I-AA-record 39 consecutive games at home. Meanwhile, their 52 wins over those four seasons were the most in all of Division I.
Johnson was previously Navy's offensive coordinator in 1995 and 1996, and his spread offense made an immediate impact, breaking five school records during the Mids' five-win season in 1995.
Navy posted a 9-3 record the next season in 1996, including a 42-38 victory over California in the Aloha Bowl. It was Navy's first winning season since 1982 and one of only two winning seasons the Mids had during a 19-year span. Prior to joining the Navy staff, Johnson spent eight seasons as the offensive coordinator at the University of Hawai'i (1987-94). He helped guide the Rainbows to their first Western Athletic Conference title and their first bowl appearance, coordinating an explosive offense that broke or equaled more than 160 school records.
While at Hawai'i, Johnson developed a successful offensive unit which earned top-20 I-A statistical rankings in scoring offense, total offense and rushing offense during six of his eight seasons. He earned top offensive coach honors in the WAC and was named one of the top 10 assistant coaches in the country by The Sporting News. After first arriving at Georgia Southern in 1983 as defensive line coach, Johnson was promoted to offensive coordinator in 1985. Under his tutelage, record-setting quarterback Tracy Ham and the Eagle offense re-wrote the school record book while averaging 435 total yards and 36 points per contest. Georgia Southern rolled to a combined 26-4 record and captured a pair of I-AA titles in 1985-86.
Johnson's coaching career began when he was offensive coordinator and line coach at his alma mater, Avery County (N.C.) High School, in 1979-80. He accepted the offensive coordinator's position at Lees-McRae Junior College in 1981, leading his offensive unit to a sixth-place national standing among NJCAA total offense leaders.
Johnson, a native of Newland, N.C., earned his bachelor's degree in physical education from Western Carolina in 1979 and a Master's degree in health and physical education from Appalachian State in 1982. He and wife, Susan, are the parents of a daughter, Kaitlyn.
PAUL JOHNSON LEDGER
As a Head Coach Season School W-L Pct. 1997 Georgia Southern 10-3 .769 Southern Conference Champions 1998 Georgia Southern 14-1 .933 Southern Conference Champions I-AA Runner-Up 1999 Georgia Southern 13-2 .867 Southern Conference Champions I-AA National Champion 2000 Georgia Southern 13-2 .867 Southern Conference Champions I-AA National Champion 2001 Georgia Southern 12-2 .857 Southern Conference Champions 2002 Navy 2-10 .167 2003 Navy 8-5 .615 EV1.net Houston Bowl 2004 Navy 10-2 .833 Emerald Bowl Champions 2005 Navy 8-4 .667 Poinsettia Bowl Champions 2006 Navy 9-4 .692 Meineke Car Care Bowl 2007 Navy 8-4 .667 Poinsettia Bowl 2008 Georgia Tech 9-4 .692 Chick-fil-A Bowl 2009 Georgia Tech *10-3 .786 ACC Championship Game/FedEx Orange Bowl 2010 Georgia Tech 6-7 .461 Advocare Independence Bowl 2011 Georgia Tech 8-5 .615 Hyundai Sun Bowl 2012 Georgia Tech 7-7 .500 Hyundai Sun Bowl GSU Totals (5 seasons) -- 62-10 (.861) Navy Totals (6 seasons) -- 45-29 (.608) Georgia Tech Totals (5 seasons) -- *40-26 (.606) Career Totals (15 seasons) -- *147-65 (.693) * 2009 ACC Championship later vacated due to NCAA sanctions. Johnson's on-field record for 2009 was 11-3.
COACHING BACKGROUND Assistant Coach '79-80 --Avery County (N.C.) High School '81-82--Lees-McRae Junior College '83-86--Georgia Southern '87-94--Hawai'i '95-96--Navy
Head Coach '97-01--Georgia Southern (62-10) '02-07--Navy (45-29) '08-present--Georgia Tech (40-26)
BIRTHDATE -- August 20, 1957
EDUCATION -- Western Carolina, B.S., `79, Appalachian State, M.S., `82
JOHNSON'S AWARDS AND HONORS 2009 ACC Coach of the Year 2008 ACC Coach of the Year 2008 CBS Sportsline National Coach of the Year 2007 finalist for the Liberty Mutual National Coach of the Year Award 2004 Bobby Dodd National Coach of the Year 2003 finalist for the NCAA I-A Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award 2003 finalist for the Paul "Bear" Bryant Coach of the Year Award 2003 finalist for the Associated Press Coach of the Year Award 2000 American Football Coaches Association NCAA I-AA National Coach of the Year 1999 American Football Coaches Association NCAA I-AA National Coach of the Year 1999 Chevrolet I-AA National Coach of the Year 1999 American Football Coaches Association I-AA Region II Coach of the Year 1998 Sports Network I-AA National Coach of the Year (Eddie Robinson Award Winner) 1998 American Football Coaches Association I-AA Region II Coach of the Year 1998 Southern Conference Coach of the Year (media) 1998 Southern Conference Coach of the Year (coaches) 1997 Schutt Sports/American Football Quarterly I-AA National Coach of the Year 1997 American Football Coaches Association I-AA Region II Coach of the Year 1997 Southern Conference Coach of the Year (media) 1997 Southern Conference Coach of the Year (coaches)