Newly hired Georgia Tech football coach Geoff Collins speaks during a news conference Friday, Dec. 7, 2018, in Atlanta.
Photo: AP Photo/John Bazemore
Photo: AP Photo/John Bazemore

Geoff Collins will have eye on Jackets during bowl practice

New Georgia Tech Geoff Collins was not at the Yellow Jackets’ first two bowl practices, but that is likely to change. At his introductory news conference last week, Collins said that he would be at the team’s practices as it prepares to play Minnesota in the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit on Dec. 26 and also observe the bowl game itself.

His presence will add a different sort of motivation for players who are trying to win an eighth game and send out coach Paul Johnson on a high note. For returning players, their work in practice and in the bowl game in Detroit are an audition for Collins as he tries to get a sense of the players he’s inheriting.

“I think I’ll just go out and continue to play how we’ve been doing all season and continue to work hard,” A-back Nathan Cottrell said Tuesday after the team’s second bowl practice. “Obviously, it’ll be his first time watching us. I’m assuming he’s watched film on all of us already, too. It kind of takes a little bit of pressure off us, but it’ll be interesting. Hopefully we’ll go out there and get the win. That’s the main goal.”

Johnson said that Tech will practice 10 times, meaning there’s eight more workouts before the game. That includes two practices in Detroit, one at the Lions’ practice facility in Allen Park and one at Ford Field.

Collins has been on the road meeting high-school coaches and recruiting since his hire. On Tuesday, he was at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for high-school state championship games. After Tuesday’s practice, Johnson said he had yet to see Collins.

“I think he’s out recruiting,” he said.

B-back Jerry Howard, who ran 105 times for 561 yards in the regular season, will try to keep focused on the game.

“You always want to make a good impression, but this team’s first, because we’re not done with the season yet,” he said. “After everything’s settled with, that’s when your offseason (work) should make an impression for you.”

Besides watching practice and the game, Collins also is planning to meet with players’ parents at the team hotel the morning of the game in Detroit. He said he did something similar when he took over at Temple two years ago to build relationships.

“When you take over a new program, that piece of it, knowing where they’re from, knowing their background, knowing the parental structure, is vital,” Collins said. “And so I want them to be able to look me in the eye, ask me any questions that they have and so I’m going to do that.”

For seniors, finishing with their coach is a twist on the final game of their careers.

“Of course, going out with your coach, that’s pretty cool,” wide receiver Brad Stewart said. “That’s not something people can say every day. (Coaches usually) will move onto the next class and focus on the next year. It’s kind of unique to go out with coach Johnson, be by his side.”

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