New Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins will have an entirely new staff.
Collins informed all 10 of outgoing coach Paul Johnson’s assistant coaches Monday that they will not be retained, according to two people familiar with the situation. Johnson addressed the matter following the team’s bowl practice on Monday.
“That’s part of the business,” Johnson said. “It’s disappointing because they’ve all been here for awhile and done a nice job and I feel bad for them if that’s the case. But it’s part of the business.”
The assistants include defensive coordinator Nate Woody, quarterbacks/B-backs coach Craig Candeto, inside linebackers coach Andy McCollum, A-backs coach/special teams coordinator Lamar Owens, wide receivers coach Buzz Preston, defensive line coach Jerome Riase, offensive line coach Mike Sewak, cornerbacks coach Joe Speed, co-offensive line coach Ron West and safeties coach Shiel Wood.
Johnson said that Sewak will retire after Tech plays Minnesota in the Quick Lane Bowl Dec. 26 in Detroit. Sewak, 60, has coached alongside Johnson for most of his career.
“I think he was close to probably doing that anyway, and those other guys I think are probably looking for a job,” Johnson said. “I’ll make calls for them and if I can help, certainly, I’m there to help them.”
Woody could be a candidate at Army and Navy, which both lost their defensive coordinators. Both team’s head coaches, Army’s Jeff Monken and Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo, were assistants to Johnson.
“I don’t think that Nate’s going to have a hard time finding a job,” Johnson said. “He’s got some options, I think.”
Johnson said that some of the assistants had had conversations with other schools about jobs.
“Hopefully it’ll work out for them,” he said.
The turnover does not come as a great surprise. Sweeping changes are standard after a change of the head coach, and with schematic changes impending on both sides of the ball, it seemed all the more likely. Further, most assistants had been told shortly after Collins’ hire that they did not need to continue recruiting and could focus solely on getting the team ready for Tech’s appearance in the bowl game.
It provides Collins a blank slate to hire assistants with whom he is familiar, who can teach his offensive and defensive schemes and who can create the culture that he seeks to develop.
Two of Collins’ assistants at Temple, defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker and defensive backs coach Nathan Burton, are expected to join Collins, according to philly.com. Thacker is a Georgia native who has coached at multiple stops in the Southeast. Burton is a Tech grad (and Greater Atlanta Christian before that) who played for the Jackets while Collins was there as a grad assistant and tight ends coach.
But with Johnson’s assistants go 57 years of experience at Tech and dozens more in the profession, and connection with hundreds of high school coaches. Preston and Sewak were with Johnson for the entirety of his 11-year tenure, aiding the Jackets in the capture of the 2009 ACC championship. They worked with arguably the two most successful NFL players who played for Johnson, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and guard Shaquille Mason.
McCollum, Owens and Speed joined the coaching staff in 2010 and developed Jackets such as Jeremiah Attaochu, Quayshawn Nealy and P.J. Davis (McCollum), A-backs Roddy Jones, Orwin Smith, Robert Godhigh and Clinton Lynch (Owens) and defensive backs Jamal Golden, Jemea Thomas and D.J. White (Speed).
It was thought that McCollum had perhaps the best chance to stay, given his productivity as a recruiter and also his versatility as a coach.
West coached an offensive line that helped the Jackets rank 21st in offensive efficiency in 2016 and 17th this season by one metric.
Candeto was the position coach for B-back KirVonte Benson, an All-ACC selection as a sophomore in 2017, and quarterback TaQuon Marshall, who set the Tech single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback in 2017.
Woody, Riase and Wood were hired last offseason, teaching a 3-4 scheme and aggressive style that secured 25 turnovers, 12th in FBS.
Collins will name his staff some time after the first day of the early signing period, which is Wednesday.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.