Tech's Johnson isn't changing approach to special teams

After Georgia Tech's costly special-teams mistakes in Saturday's loss to Miami, a common gripe resurfaced among fans and media that coach Paul Johnson needs to hire a special-teams coach. The coach evidently was paying attention and called the suggestion "ridiculous."

Johnson said most staffs operate the same way as Tech's, with one assistant in charge of special teams among his duties and other coaches assigned to specific special-teams units, such as the field-goal team. For Tech, secondary coach Charles Kelly oversees special teams and other assistants coach different units.

“If I was sitting there and evaluating the tape and I’m looking at the schemes and I’m looking at what we’re doing and it’s totally screwed up, then you’ve got problems,” Johnson said. “But you can look at it: We’re doing the same stuff that everybody is.”

Johnson has research that found only six teams in the ACC, SEC, Big 12 and Big Ten have coaches whose sole responsibility is coaching special teams. In the ACC, five teams have special-teams coaches who coach another position group. Four teams, including Tech, do not have a titled special-teams coach. Boston College and Wake Forest have dedicated special-teams coaches and N.C. State’s special-teams coach is also the recruiting coordinator.

Johnson has not been shy about voicing his displeasure with the Yellow Jackets’ special teams, last week calling the kickoff return team “abysmal.”

“Do we have to get better at it? Yeah, you bet,” Johnson said. “I mean, I’m frustrated we’re not better at it because we practice it every day and what we’re doing is sound.”

Staying the course

With two dispiriting losses after six consecutive wins to start the season, Johnson said the important thing is to keep moving forward.

“I’ve done this for a long time and we’ve played a lot of games, and once in awhile you’re going to have games like this,” he said. “The big thing is, don’t panic, try to find some things to help with the problems you’re having, and keep going. I know what we’re doing will work.”

Open job

After a critical misplay by punt returner Zach Laskey against Miami, Johnson said coaches will "evaluate [the position] at the end of the week and see how it goes." Johnson credited Laskey for taking responsibility for the mistake, which led to a Miami touchdown in the second quarter. Johnson said Laskey told him after coming to the sideline that he didn't know why he tried to field the bouncing punt.

“Zach’s going to be a good player for us,” Johnson said. “Stuff happens.”

Winning first down

The performance of Georgia Tech's defense on first down was key to the Jackets' improved performance against the Hurricanes, defensive coordinator Al Groh said. On 18 first-down runs by Miami, the Hurricanes averaged .9 yards per carry, Groh said.

Tech Miami was 5 of 14 on third-down conversions, one of the Jackets’ better rates this season.

“First down is really the controlling down,” Groh said.

Injury report

Johnson said he wouldn't know the severity of center Jay Finch's lower leg injury right away. Finch hurt himself on Tech's first offensive play from scrimmage. He was replaced by Nick McRae.

Etc.

Johnson said the team's effort against Miami "was probably as good as we've had all year." ... Groh indicated that inside linebacker Quayshawn Nealy's start ahead of Daniel Drummond was not necessarily a permanent switch, that he earned it through his performance in practice last week.