ATLANTA - Paul Johnson, whose first Georgia Tech team exceeded all expectations by winning nine regular season games, was named the 2008 Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year Tuesday by the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association (ACSMA).
Georgia Tech, ranked 15th in the BCS standings and 15th in the Associated Press poll, finished the regular season with a 9-3 record, remarkably better than every preseason projection. Sports Illustrated predicted Johnson's first Yellow Jacket team would win just three games, and Tech was picked to finish fourth in the ACC's Coastal Division. With a 5-3 record in ACC play, the Jackets tied Virginia Tech for the Coastal Division title.
"This is an honor for the football program at Georgia Tech, the coaching staff and the players," Johnson said today. "There are a lot of great coaches in the ACC, so it's humbling to win such a prestigious honor."
Johnson, who came to Georgia Tech in December after a highly-successful, six-year tenure at Navy, inherited a roster low in scholarship numbers and overloaded with youth. Only 76 players are on scholarship, including three senior walk-ons who were awarded scholarships prior to the start of the season, below the maximum of 85 scholarships. The roster includes 75 freshmen and sophomores, and 16 of 22 starters are either freshmen or sophomores.
Many questioned whether or not Johnson's spread option offense would work in the ACC. Last Saturday, with no senior starters on offense, Georgia Tech rolled up 409 rushing yards against Georgia, which ranked 15th nationally in rushing defense at the time. For the season, the Yellow Jackets lead the ACC in total offense (377.3) and rank third nationally in rushing offense (282.3).
Johnson is the first Georgia Tech coach to be named ACC Coach of the Year since George O'Leary in 2000. O'Leary also won the award in 1998. Tech's Bobby Ross won the honor in 1990 after leading the Yellow Jackets to a share of the national championship. Bill Curry, in 1985, is the only other Georgia Tech coach to win the award. During Tech's tenure in the Southeastern Conference (1933-1963), Bobby Dodd won conference coach of the year honors twice (1951 and 1952) and William Alexander captured the award in 1939.
Johnson will be honored, along with other ACC individual award winners, Friday in Tampa. The ACC Coaches and Awards Luncheon is scheduled for 12 noon at the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel.