Georgia Tech head coach Geoff Collins, here instructing his team two weeks ago against The Citadel, is all Georgia Tech all the time, even with old employer Temple looming. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

It’s an undistracted Collins preparing Tech for its trip to Temple 

Worlds and cultures collided in 2018 when Geoff Collins took a crew on the road as part of his “Cheesesteaks with Coach” video series at Temple.

Out from the familiar confines of Philadelphia they ventured, south out of Pennsylvania and into Delaware, more than an hour away to what amounts to a shrine for this Atlanta-reared coach. Behold, the nearest Waffle House (cue angelic choir).

And didn’t Collins show these rookies how to order. He went for the full Cardiac Arrest Platter, because if you’re going to make this trip, might as well make it worthwhile and even a little bit dangerous:  

Cheesesteak omelet for the table.

Pecan waffle.

Three scrambled eggs with cheese.

Hash browns smothered, covered.

Wheat toast.

Bacon.

Grits.

Sweet tea.

Coke with cherry syrup in a to-go cup. This came with a dissertation from Collins about how superior the Styrofoam cup is for maintaining maximum carbonation.  

This clearly was a man who needed to get back to somewhere more in keeping with his refined palate, a place that appreciates a Waffle House on every corner. A place like, say, Atlanta and Georgia Tech.  

Worlds and cultures collide in a very direct way when Tech – Collins’ now team – plays Temple – his team in 2017 and ’18. His former one is favored by nine points. Some of his best work in his first head coaching gig will now be turned against Collins. “We were blessed to recruit a lot of really good players that we were able to develop. You turn on the tape and you see that,” he said.

It’s not a great scenario for any coach, to go back to the place he just left, bearing loyalties to players on both sidelines and bringing a project of a team that just lost to an FCS opponent. (Temple, 2-1, is itself coming off a difficult loss, by 16 points, to Buffalo. The Owls committed four turnovers and trailed by as much as 28 in that one). 

“There will be strong feelings,” Collins told the media Tuesday. “But we’re making sure we reel those in and focus on ourselves so that we’re able to prepare ourselves to play at a high level against a really good opponent.”

He’s a coach way too busy trying to keep his team out of a ditch to take any detours down Memory Lane. Since Day 1, Collins has taken to the pulpit to sermonize about the need to transform the culture and raise the ceiling around here. Anywhere else scarcely exists for him. 

“Very rarely any week do we talk about the opponent,” Collins said. “This week I’ll get asked a lot about the opponent, I understand that. 

“It’s about us, and execution.”

“There is no external piece,” said Yellow Jackets offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude, among the platoon of coaches Collins brought with him from Temple. “Coach doesn’t even talk about (his Temple connection). This is the next opponent. I don’t know if he’s mentioned Temple once.”

It is worth a glance at least at his old place for a clue as to what a Collins team might look like after a couple of seasons. 

For one, these Owls, while certainly not world-beaters, do have the type of quarterback and scheme that Collins has promised to import to the formerly triple-option-based Yellow Jackets. In three games, junior Anthony Russo has thrown for more yards – 944 – than any Tech quarterback has totaled the past two seasons.

When describing the football mentality of one urban-based university in Philly, Tech defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker, another former Owls coach, could be speaking for the mentality they are trying to transplant to another urban-based program in Atlanta. “They pride themselves on toughness. ... They’re going to come out and play really hard, really tough, really physical,” he said

Leaving Temple and coming back home has held myriad personal benefits for Collins, the loss to The Citadel his last time out notwithstanding.

Of course, there’s the breakfast.

But even more than that, he said: “Being back home my grandmother – she’s 80 years old – in the first three weeks of the season has seen me coach more football games than she has in the previous 11 years of my career. She’s seen my 3-year-old daughter more in the last three months than she had in the previous three years. As you get older in your coaching profession those things matter.

“Being down here and having family around doesn’t discount how special my experience was (at Temple), the fondness I have for those young men in the program. It was a special time, the right time for us to be there.”

And Saturday certainly would be the right time to go back and remind them of what they lost.

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About the Author

Steve Hummer
Steve Hummer
Steve Hummer writes sports features for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He covers a wide range of sports and topics.
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