As culture shifts go, Geoff Collins not waffling at Georgia Tech

The former Temple coach has brought energy and a new offense to Atlanta. The Yellow Jackets will host USF in Week 2.
Georgia Tech head coach Geoff Collins speaks during the Atlantic Coast Conference NCAA college football media days in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, July 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Georgia Tech head coach Geoff Collins speaks during the Atlantic Coast Conference NCAA college football media days in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, July 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Published July 19, 2019|Updated July 20, 2019

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Sadly for Geoff Collins, Philadelphia was a Waffle House wasteland. For two seasons at Temple, the Conyers, Ga., native endured withdrawal from its signature hash browns while establishing his head coaching chops.

“There’s not a Waffle House within an hour of Philadelphia,” Collins bemoaned.

Hence the reason he gravitated to the distinctly Southern restaurant before dawn each of his first nine days on the job as Georgia Tech coach. For Collins, breakfast was blissful again.

For the players he inherited, life also became pretty sunny-side up in short order.

Related: MORE USF: Terrence Horne set to return from ACL injury

“There’s not a meeting you don’t walk into and it’s just blaring music,” redshirt senior linebacker David Curry said. “It’s coaches jumping around, coaches dancing with you. It may sound silly, but it really gets the guys hyped up and excited to be there.”

The triple-option era formally has faded in a cloud of dust in Atlanta. Though the archaic, anomalous scheme served Georgia Tech well for most of Paul Johnson’s 11 seasons as coach, a sense of rejuvenation has prevailed in the program since Johnson stepped down after last season.

The Yellow Jackets host USF on Sept. 7.

Collins, Florida’s defensive coordinator in 2015 and 2016, has spent the past seven months building a brand, culture, and offensive and defensive systems more conducive to 2019.

“We have got some unbelievable athletes that, to be honest with you, I don’t believe their full potential was unlocked in that old offense,” Curry said Thursday at the ACC Kickoff.

“And don’t get me wrong, I love that old staff. I mean, I love Coach Johnson. But it’s like a lot of our guys have a lot of talents that are being unlocked now because they’re able to run a normal offense.”

Related: MORE ACC: Critical stretch looms for Miami Hurricanes quarterback derby

On Thursday, Collins preached that he and his staff are implementing a player-based, not scheme-based, system. Many of the players Collins inherited tried new positions in the spring. The slot-receiver position, nonexistent in the triple option, was introduced.

“I definitely saw a lot more targets and a lot more catches in the spring, so that was definitely fun,” said senior receiver Jalen Camp, whose 11 receptions ranked second on the team last season.

“And a lot of the guys — tight ends, slot receivers — they saw a lot more balls, and I think it really encouraged us.”

The short-term result likely will be something more conventional, though probably not a replica of the power-based, two-tight stuff Collins oversaw at Temple. Six-foot-3 redshirt junior Lucas Johnson, a mobile 3,700-yard passer in high school, is the favorite at quarterback.

“The scheme that we’re in now prepares our guys to play at the next level,” said Collins, who inherited a roster with 13 scholarship running backs and zero tight ends.

“The formations, the reads, the running plays, the pass schemes that we use prepare our guys to play on the next level. So Jalen Camp now gets to show what he can do for the next level. So he’s going to have individual success as a by-product of what we do schematically.”

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The rockiest transition likely will occur up front, where Georgia Tech’s collection of cut blockers must learn pass protection, among other previously foreign concepts.

To help get that unit up to speed, Collins brought in former Alabama offensive line coach — and Georgia Tech alumnus — Brent Key. Collectively, Collins’ staff is a chest-bumping, workout-conscious assemblage.

Related: MORE USF: Four questions with bulked-up quarterback Blake Barnett

“You’ll see the videos of us working out in the offseason. There’s (defensive ends coach) Marco Coleman right in the middle of it flipping tires,” Collins said. “There’s (defensive coordinator) Andrew Thacker doing mat drills.

“So we are totally invested in the development of our players. If you have a little fun while you’re doing that, that’s okay.”

Besides, one must work off that Waffle House grub some way or another.

“You could tell (Collins’) energy and his passion right off the bat,” Curry said.

“A lot of guys bought in immediately, and it’s not like we’re just kind of doubting them, but people have got to show you their true colors. And what you see out there is real, man.”

Contact Joey Knight at Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.