No word yet on if new Georgia Tech football coach Geoff Collins will hire a S.W.A.G. Coordinator. That Tech could possibly have such a position is a clear signal that football is going to look a lot different on The Flats.
Collins is a good hire for Tech even if he didn’t come with the swag. Big, fun talk wouldn’t mean much if he can’t coach. His track record, as an SEC defensive coordinator and Temple head coach, says he can do that.
But the Yellow Jackets already had a good coach. Now that Paul Johnson is leaving and taking his program-defining offense with him, the Jackets needed someone who can move them into a new era. Time for better recruits at Tech now that lesser prospects can’t be plugged into a specialized system.
Enter Collins and his S.W.A.G., or Specialist With Advanced Graphics. Dave Gerson was Collins’ S.W.A.G. at Temple and, according to a news release (really), his job was to “showcase an array of graphic designs for social media usage.” Translation: create memes, GIFs and videos for the kids.
That staff position illustrates how, as a recruiter, Collins is a bit of a showman. As a Mississippi State assistant, he gained fame for the hand-drawn sketches he sent to recruits. There were drawings of “Cans of Swag” or “You’re a Baller” scrawled in large letters.
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Collins used the pictures and props to grab the attention of teenagers, which can be hard to do. That’s the heart of recruiting because, after all, lots of coaches can evaluate talent. Not all of them can connect with kids these days, and Tech now has one of them.
I expect it will pay dividends for Tech in recruiting. It probably won’t happen during this week’s early signing period because Collins just got hired. He’s waiting until after signing day to assemble his staff, which is sure to include some coaches from Temple.
Collins is trying to keep together Johnson’s class of recruits. That endeavor seems to be going well based on player reactions from official visits to Tech. The class ranks 48th nationally and 10th in the ACC, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.
That’s a typical level for Johnson’s classes, which were never higher than 41st (not counting the one he inherited). Without Johnson and his over-achieving offense, the Jackets likely will have to recruit at a higher level to have similar success or better.
There are recruiting challenges unique to Tech, but Collins has helped do it there before. He was Tech’s director of player personnel in 2007, when a nationally 15th-ranked class included Morgan Burnett, Jonathan Dwyer, Derrick Morgan and Joshua Nesbitt.
Back then Collins already was showing a knack for connecting with recruits using their favored technology and speaking their language. Tech AD Todd Stansbury talked about wanting an “innovator” as head coach. If the option gave Tech the edge under Johnson, then maybe Collins can get them an advantage with his swag.
Such an approach may not seem to fit with Tech’s buttoned-down image, but Collins can help change that. The Jackets are in Atlanta, but in my time here, I’ve never got the feeling they are about Atlanta. Collins has the personality to help change that.
The Hawks have, for example, mastered using the city’s hip-hop stars to promote their brand. Granted, it’s easier to do that in the NBA with its visible, professional players. But Collins certainly can try to get some of Atlanta’s cool to rub off on Tech and attract players who want to be part of it.
As mentioned, I wouldn’t put so much stock in Collins’ swag if he didn’t also come with a beefy coaching resume. He had two winning seasons as Temple head coach and before that he ran good defenses at Mississippi State (2013 and ’14) and Florida (’15 and ’16).
Here’s where those units ranked nationally in Football Outsiders S&P metric: 14th, 22nd, seventh and fourth. Temple’s defense took a step back in Collins’ first season as head coach (40th) before rebounding in 2018 (24th).
The Jackets will look different under Collins. The triple-option offense will be gone, replaced by a pro look. Defense no longer will be a complement -- during his introductory news conference, the new coach declared: “We have to play great defense.”
More than new schemes, Collins brings a new attitude to Tech. Soon we are likely to hear about Tech’s new S.W.A.G. Coordinator. One day we may see the head coach drinking from a jewel-encrusted “Swag Chalice.”
Getting that fun stuff, along with a good coach, is just what Tech needed.