Bristly Geoff Collins responds to criticism, questioning

Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins addresses media via Zoom videoconference October 27, 2020.
Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins addresses media via Zoom videoconference October 27, 2020.

With his team coming off two lopsided defeats and public criticism growing, Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins answered back at his weekly news conference Tuesday.

Collins defended his coaching, reasserted his confidence in his plan to build the Yellow Jackets into an elite program and bristled at the negativity being aimed at him in the wake of losses to No. 1 Clemson and Boston College with a visit from No. 4 Notre Dame coming up.

“All I’ve ever been everywhere I’ve been is successful,” Collins said. “All I’ve done everywhere I’ve been is won and developed my players to the highest level possible. Sometimes, it’s really quick. Sometimes, it’s fast. Sometimes, it takes a little bit longer to get it going. But it always, and will always, end up being in the positive. And here’s why: because I will not stop until it happens.”

Success on the field has been particularly elusive in the past two games, which followed the Jackets' 46-27 win over Louisville on Oct. 9, Collins' highwater mark in his season-and-a-half coaching at Tech. Turnovers, defensive miscues and other mistakes abounded in a 73-7 loss to the Tigers and a 48-27 loss to Boston College. In the former, Clemson scored the most points given up by Tech since 1894. In the latter, the Eagles gained more rushing yards (264) than they had in their previous four games combined. The results withstanding, Collins has maintained that the team (2-4, 2-3 ACC entering Saturday’s game) is improving in his second season and is on track to reach a “ridiculously high level.”

Tech has made significant improvement in total offense (286.3 yards per game last season to 396.3 yards this one) and scoring (22.8 points per game this season from 16.7 last year). The Jackets' defense, while six of the top seven leading tacklers from the 2019 team returned, has been a different story. Opponent scoring is up from 32.4 to 41.2 points per game and total defense has risen from 422.9 yards per game to 479.2, numbers weighted by the historic loss to the top-ranked Tigers.

Turnovers – Tech has 18, second most in FBS – have been a big part of the Jackets' struggles. While showing obvious promise, freshman quarterback Jeff Sims has been responsible for 14 of them. They’ve outweighed the Jackets' 11 takeaways, tied for ninth in FBS.

An active Twitter user undoubtedly aware of criticism that he has taken on that platform, Collins asserted that there is more to his tenure than what has happened on the field, that those critical of him are seeing only snapshots without knowing full stories.

“A lot of people just want to look at results,” Collins said. “They don’t want to see the progress and the steps in the journey, which I see every single day. Every single day, we’re building, and we’re building something that’s very special.”

Collins continued, saying it was human nature to be negative, critical and to seek to tear people down.

“They want to do it on social media, they want to do it in the media, they want to do it wherever it is they want to be negative and tear things down,” he said in response to a question from ESPN reporter Marty Smith. “I ain’t about that life, Marty. I want to build people up.”

In answering questions about matters such as why he chooses not to be more intense on the sideline during games, if he might limit his playing rotation, how his teams can avoid falling behind early and if the job has been tougher than he anticipated, Collins was more animated Tuesday than he had been in perhaps any other media session since his December 2018 hire.

“There’s a lot of people that want to tear you down,” he said. “There’s a lot of people that want to build you up. There’s a lot of people that want to be in your corner. There’s a lot of people don’t want to turn their back on you. And I keep score, too.”

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