Since the end of last season, Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins has made repeated mention of doing “deep dives” into how his team’s play can improve the results on the field. So much so that it might be a smart play for a scuba-gear company to sponsor his weekly media sessions.

Such introspection was necessary after three consecutive three-win seasons. Collins has been reticent to share the findings and applications of those probes, but the one that could have the most impact on his team – and ultimately his tenure at the helm of the Yellow Jackets ship, now going into its fourth season – is one that directly involves him.

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Specifically, Collins clearly believes that his decision to commit more time to supporting defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker will pay dividends. He sent that message in his time at the podium of the team’s media day Saturday, on the Jackets’ second day of preseason practice. He was asked, for instance, what needed to be fixed to turn around the defense, which has finished 89th, 109th and 117th in the FBS in total defense the past three seasons.

“I don’t know if there’s one place that you can say has been the deficiency and the reason why, but (me) just getting to be with them every single day, adding my expertise to it is going to be beneficial for all of us,” he said.

To this point, Collins had been a presence with both the offense and defense. Those minutes aiding former offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude came at the cost of being able to provide his defensive expertise to Thacker and his staff, which is significant because that’s where Collins has spent nearly all of his coaching career. Before becoming head coach at Temple in 2017, he had held the title of defensive coordinator or co-defensive coordinator for the previous seven seasons. In the final four of those, three of his defenses – at Mississippi State and Florida – finished in the top 20 nationally in total defense.

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Collins’ intentions to be an asset came up again in a question regarding his confidence in Thacker.

“I’m in that (meeting) room, so I’ve got tremendous confidence in Andrew Thacker as a developer of schemes as a play-caller, and I’m excited to be back in there with him on a daily basis,” Collins said.

He could have continued to extoll and perhaps defend Thacker – Collins doesn’t need much excuse to shower praise on his players, coaches and staff – but he instead went on to note that that morning, when the offensive and defensive staffs split up, he aligned himself with the defense.

“That’s normally what I try to do, but just making it a point of, every time we have a unit meeting, I’m in the defensive unit meeting,” Collins said. “(I have) a lot of faith, a lot of confidence in both sides of the ball. But my expertise has been on the defensive side of the ball, so I want to invest in that side as much as I can.”

Collins’ heightened investment is not the only change. After defensive-ends coach Marco Coleman left to become defensive-line coach at Michigan State, Collins brought in David Turner, a coach who could not match his predecessor’s name recognition among Tech fans or his NFL stardom, but he does have far greater coaching experience. Turner is coaching the defensive tackles, and Larry Knight has the ends. Turner also is coordinating the run defense.

Collins hired Jason Semore to coach the linebackers, a duty that Thacker had held, freeing Thacker to oversee the entire defense. Semore was an analyst for Collins at Temple and Tech, had coached several years at lower tiers before Temple and then went from Tech to a successful one-year run as defensive coordinator at Valdosta State.

“He’s got a track record of success as a defensive play-caller, as well, and a great sounding board, great mind on the defensive side of the ball, as well,” Collins said of Semore.

His hire of former Tech captain Travares Tillman to coach the secondary was Collins’ solution to solve the communication and trust issues that plagued the defensive backfield last season.

Besides the hires of offensive coordinator Chip Long and quarterbacks coach Chris Weinke – replacing Patenaude – Collins also brought on former Georgia offensive coordinator Jim Chaney to serve in an advisory role.

“It’s really nice to have somebody of that experience and that caliber just here with us every day,” Collins said. “It’s a really good resource, really for all of us.”

Collins will continue to spend time with the offense, but he will take a more active role with the defense, whether it’s at practice, game planning or devising the scheme.

“I think that’s a tangible thing,” he said.

The results from the past three seasons make an obvious case that Thacker needed the help, as his defenses have struggled in all facets. It perhaps was not a surprise. Not counting a graduate assistant apprenticeship at Oklahoma State, this job was Thacker’s first at a power-conference school, and it was as a coordinator. Further, he had been a coordinator for only one year before that, in 2018 with Collins at Temple. He has spent the past three seasons trying to match wits with far more experienced counterparts and often come up short.

Given the lack of results, Collins’ decision to stick with Thacker after the season was surprising, or even confusing, to many. That Collins chose to stand by him when he replaced Patenaude says something about his belief in Thacker, and perhaps also in his confidence in his own ability to help him succeed.

It’s obviously an unknown at this point how much Collins’ contributions can bring about the desired results. The Jackets’ defense experienced a significant talent drain, as eight of the top 11 tacklers from last season’s defense either completed their college careers or transferred. For Tech to improve, players who haven’t played much will have to play better than the ones they’re replacing.

In a most critical season, Collins intends to help effect those results. Earlier this week, he was asked how much additional time he’ll be able to give to the defense.

“There’s not a number,” he said. “I just know that moving forward I’ll be able to be in there much more. I’m excited about it.”