It gets worse for Collins and Tech: Jahmyr Gibbs enters the portal

Georgia Tech's Jahmyr Gibbs (1) runs with a ball during the second half of an NCAA college football game at Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta on Saturday, September 4, 2021.

Credit: Hyosub Shin/hshin@ajc.com

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Georgia Tech's Jahmyr Gibbs (1) runs with a ball during the second half of an NCAA college football game at Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta on Saturday, September 4, 2021.

Credit: Hyosub Shin/hshin@ajc.com

The #404Takeover just took a huge hit. Jahmyr Gibbs, whose praises coach Geoff Collins has sung for two years, has entered the transfer portal. He’s from Dalton. He was a 4-star recruit. He was the biggest Georgia Tech signee since Chan Gailey’s famous class of 2007 – Jonathan Dwyer, Joshua Nesbitt, Derrick Morgan and Morgan Burnett. We could argue that he’s the best Tech player since Calvin Johnson.

“One of the best players in college football,” Collins called Gibbs, not for the first time, after Tech lost to Georgia 45-0 on Saturday. Of all the Yellow Jackets, he’s the one who wouldn’t have looked out of place on the Bulldogs’ star-spangled depth chart. (Tech, as we know, has done away with the depth chart.)

“I have loved my time here at Georgia Tech,” Gibbs posted on Twitter, but he didn’t love it so much that he wanted to waste his time on a third season. Going 3-6 and then 3-9 can have that effect on a young man’s ardor. Losing consecutive games by a total of 100 points can make a big-time talent wonder how life might look elsewhere.

We can’t say for sure that Gibbs’ absence will make Tech any worse than it has been. When two hours of football have seen the other side score 100 and yours score nothing, you’ve hit bottom. His leaving does make it less likely that Collins will ever hit heights he, and perhaps he alone, still envisions.

Not long ago, Collins said he knew that his rebuild would work because he’s Geoff Collins, who has succeeded wherever he has been. This was a curious statement, given that he’d been a head coach only once before he arrived, and that was at Temple for two seasons, the better of which saw the Owls go 8-4. They’d gone 10-4 and 10-3 under Matt Rhule, whom Collins followed. “I have complete confidence in myself,” Collins said, and it’s fine to believe as much. It’s weird to say it out loud when you’re about to lose as many games in Year 3 as in Year 1.

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm,” said a famous man named Ralph. (No, not Ralph Friedgen. Ralph Waldo Emerson.) Collins has as much enthusiasm as anyone who has ever lived. This fervor hasn’t yet been reflected in his record. He’s 9-25 at Tech, worse even than Bill Lewis, who so disappointed Tech fans they refuse to speak his name.

Todd Stansbury is on record as saying he’s sold on Collins. Actual quote: “I have my man.” It’s not unreasonable that the athletic director who hired this coach would be willing to wait until Year 4, when Collins’ ballyhooed recruits have had a chance to grow together, to pass judgment. This same AD gave this coach a seven-year contract, silly even by Tech’s patchy contractual history. (We reference Gailey and Paul Hewitt.)

This season fell apart so completely – Tech lost its final six games – that Collins was moved to dump three assistants Sunday, offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude included. This wasn’t a shock. When you don’t score over two games, your OC isn’t to be confused with Lincoln Riley. Still, offense was the better part of Tech in 2021. The Jackets finished 92nd among 130 FBS teams in total yardage. (Four ACC teams cracked the top 10.) They were 117th in total defense.

It’s possible Collins will pluck some major talents from the same portal, though Tech is a harder sell now. The top recruit to grace the Institute in more than a decade has opted out, two days after Bobby Dodd Stadium saw Georgia fans outnumber Tech backers.

Said cornerback Tre Swilling, the latest of many Swillings to matriculate at Tech: “It being Senior Day and there being that much red … truthfully, it doesn’t feel great.”

For 11 seasons under Paul Johnson, Tech folks knew their team could run the ball. Many were ready for something new, but we ask: What does Tech do well now? It was bad on offense, worse on defense. Gibbs was its leading rusher, its leading kickoff returner and its third-leading receiver.

Per 247Sports, Tech’s recruiting class for 2022 is the nation’s 23rd-best, fifth-best in the ACC. Given Gibbs’ announcement, you wonder if that ranking will hold until Signing Day, which is Dec. 15. You wonder if Collins will make it through Year 4. You half-wonder if he’ll make it to spring practice.

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