By: TJ Hartnett
GeorgiaSportsEdition.com news services
After Paul Johnson retired from coaching the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets football team after 11 seasons, there was a big ACC hole to fill. They filled it with former Tech assistant and erstwhile Temple head coach Geoff Collins.
Collins was 15-10 for the past two seasons at Temple and before that worked as the defensive coordinator at both Florida and Mississippi State. He began his career in Atlanta as a tight ends coach for the Jackets under George O’Leary and also worked as a recruiting coordinator for Chan Gailey in 2006.
This amounts to a dream job for Collins, a Conyers native, who has already been on the recruiting trail since being hired last month.
Collins has fairly sizeable shoes to fill: Johnson managed 82 wins during his stint, against 59 losses; the Yellow Jackets also made three ACC Championship game appearances. Last season they finished 7-5.
In addition to recruiting, Collins has spent his time filling out his coaching staff for the upcoming season.
His first move was to bring on former Yellow Jackets running back Tashard Choice as the running backs coach. The former NFL player spent the past two seasons at North Texas as an assistant and RB coach.
Collins followed that hire up by adding Kerry Dixon and Lewis Caralla. Dixon will be the Jackets’ wide receivers coach. He held the same job in the past at the University of Florida, where he first ran into his new boss.
Caralla will serve as Tech’s strength and conditioning coach, the same position he held in Buffalo. He was an assistant strength and conditioning coach for the Yellow Jackets in 2010 and 2011.
Collins brought a familiar face with him from Pennsylvania, former Temple assistant Nathan Burton, a Teaching graduate, who joins the staff as a co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach.
Collins has also brought on Boise State coach Jeff Popovich to coach GT’s cornerbacks and coordinator of defensive special teams.
Larry Knight, Jim Panagos and Chris Wiesehan have also been added to Collins’ staff. Knight will serve as defensive ends/outside linebackers coach; Panagos as defensive line coach; and Wiesehan as tight ends coach/offensive special teams coordinator.
Additionally, Knight will carry the title of defensive recruiting coordinator. Tashard Choice, previously hired as the Yellow Jackets’ running backs coach, will serve as the program’s offensive recruiting coordinator.
Collins followed those hires up with a pair of steals; first swiping Patrick Suddes from Auburn to run his recruiting office, then taking Brent Key from Nick Saban to serve as assistant head coach. Key, another Tech graduate, has been coaching Alabama’s best-in-the-nation offensive line for the past three seasons.
While that seemed to close the book on Georgia Tech’s staff, this week Collins created and filled four new positions that did not exist during Paul Johnson’s tenure in charge.
Football research and analytics coordinator Pat Boyle, analysts Joe Battaglia (offense) and Ronell Williams (defense) and brand manager Santino Stancato all jumped ship with Collins from Temple.
With a new cohort of coaches and assistants (and a brand manager, of course), the Geoff Colllins era at Georgia Tech is ready to begin in earnest.
With so many staff members from Georgia, much like Collins himself, and/or doubling as graduates from the very institution they now work for, local recruiting is sure to be a focus, and strength, of this team.
Choice in particular brings a youth and energy to the staff that did not exist during the Paul Johnson era.
Despite his predecessor’s successes, Collins decided to start entirely fresh when he took over the job in December. Soon, the time will come for these new faces to prove what they can do.