Paul Johnson, a two-time Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year and the mastermind behind Georgia Tech’s high-production offense, begins his fourth season as head coach of the Yellow Jackets.
Under Johnson, Georgia Tech was one of college football’s biggest surprise stories in 2008 and won the ACC championship in 2009. The ACC Coach of the Year in 2008 and 2009, Johnson’s teams have appeared in a bowl game each of the last three seasons.
In three seasons on the Flats, Johnson has compiled a record of 25-14, including a 16-8 mark in ACC play. No coach in Tech history won more games than Johnson in their first three seasons. Over the last three seasons combined, only Virginia Tech has won more ACC games than Johnson’s Jackets.
In 14 seasons overall as a head coach, Johnson owns a career record of 132-53. His career winning percentage (.714) ranks in the top 10 among active BCS head coaches.
Johnson enjoyed success as the head coach atGeorgiaSouthern (1997-2001) and Navy (2002-2007) before being named Georgia Tech’s 12th head coach on Dec. 12, 2007.
What Johnson has accomplished at Georgia Tech has been remarkable:
• In his first two seasons at Tech, Johnson was named the ACC Coach of the Year. He is the first coach to win the award in his first two years in the league.
• In 2008, he was named National Coach of the Year by CBS Sports.
• In 2009, the Yellow Jackets won the ACC title outright for the first time since 1990, defeating Clemson in the ACC Championship Game.
• Tech played in a BCS bowl game for the first time in 2009.
• Under Johnson, Tech has averaged nearly nine wins per season.
• In each of his three seasons, Tech has ranked in the top five nationally in rushing offense. Last season, the Yellow Jackets led the nation in rushing (323.3 ypg).
• In 21 of Johnson’s 40 games at Georgia Tech, the Yellow Jackets have produced more than 400 yards of total offense. Tech has scored at least one rushing touchdown in 35 of 40 games under Johnson.
• Over the last three seasons, Tech has produced four 1,000-yard rushers — Jonathan Dwyer in 2008, Dwyer and Joshua Nesbitt in 2009, and Anthony Allen in 2010.
• Over the last three years combined, the Yellow Jackets have produced 12 first team All-ACC selections.
• Tech has produced two first team All-Americans under Johnson — Michael Johnson in 2008 and Derrick Morgan in 2009.
• Since Johnson’s arrival, a Tech player has been named ACC Offensive Player of the Year (Dwyer in 2008) and ACC Defensive Player of the Year (Morgan in 2009).
• Johnson is 11-2 at Tech in games decided by five points or less.
• Johnson is 6-4 at Tech against nationally-ranked opponents.
• Johnson is 10-7 at Tech in road games.
• Tech is 23-5 under Johnson when scoring at least 20 points, 16-1 when scoring more than 30 points.
• In 2009, Tech won in Tallahassee (Fla.) for the first time in school history, beat a top-five ranked team at home (Virginia Tech) for the first time since 1962 and won on the road in Charlottesville (Va.) for the first time since 1990.
• Also in 2009, Tech earned its highest national ranking (7th) since 1999.
• In 2008, the Jackets broke a seven-year losing skid to rival Georgia, beating the 13th-ranked Bulldogs, 45-42, in Athens (Ga.).
• UnderJohnson,Georgia Tech’s Academic Progress Report (APR) scores have risen each of the last three years.
In 2010, Georgia Tech earned a bowl bid for the 14th consecutive season, tying for the fourth-longest current streak in college football. The Yellow Jackets, who lost four juniors to the 2010 NFL Draft and played the final four games without injured quarterback Joshua Nesbitt, finished 4-4 in the ACC and led the nation in rushing offense for the first time in school history.
Two Yellow Jackets — senior center Sean Bedford and senior running back Anthony Allen — were named first team All-ACC in 2010.
The 2009 season was one of the most memorable in Yellow Jacket history despite fielding one of the youngest rosters in college football (just six scholarship seniors).
After a mid-September loss at nationally-rankedMiamiwhen the Yellow Jackets played their third game in a 12-day span, Tech reeled off eight consecutive victories including a 5-0 record in October when it played four road games. A convincing 49-10 win at Duke on Nov. 14 clinched the ACC Coastal Division crown, then Tech won the league title by defeating Clemson for a second time, this time in the ACC Championship Game inTampa,Fla.
Tech, which reached a national ranking as high as seventh, played in the FedEx Orange Bowl, its first appearance in a major or BCS bowl game since 1962. Along the way, the Yellow Jackets rolled up mind-boggling numbers on offense, ranking second nationally in rushing offense (295.4 ypg) and third in time of possession (33:49).
Prior to the start of the 2008 season, Sports Illustrated projected Georgia Tech to finish 3-9 and the ACC media picked the Yellow Jackets to finish fourth in the Coastal Division. However, Johnson directed Tech to a 9-4 record, a share of the Coastal Division title and a Chick-fil-A Bowl berth. Johnson’s first Yellow Jacket team beat three nationally-ranked opponents – Florida State, Miami and Georgia – over the final four games of the regular season. The win overGeorgiasnapped a seven-year losing skid to Tech’s in-state rival.
Johnson’s first season at Georgia Tech was remarkable for a number of reasons. Not only did he and his staff install completely new offensive and defensive schemes, but Johnson inherited one of the nation’s youngest rosters, which included 76 freshmen and sophomores. The last one-third of the season, 16 of Tech’s 22 starters were freshmen or sophomores. He also took over a program low in scholarship numbers, well below the maximum of 85, the lingering effects of distant NCAA penalties.
The 2008 team also suffered more than its share of injuries. Twelve opening-day starters combined to miss 31 games because of injuries. In a September road game at defending ACC champion Virginia Tech, the Jackets started a walk-on freshman at wide receiver. A few weeks later, Tech started its third-string quarterback as the result of injuries to starter Josh Nesbitt and back-up Jaybo Shaw.
Almost as soon as Johnson was hired, the pundits questioned if Johnson’s option-based spread offense would work on the ACC level. Those questions came even though Navy racked up mind-numbing offensive numbers, leading the NCAA in rushing three straight years from 2005 to 2007, mostly against ACC and other BCS-level competition.
Johnson quieted those critics almost as soon as the 2008 season kicked-off and certainly after Tech closed the regular season by combining for 86 points and 881 rushing yards in games against nationally-rankedMiamiand Georgia. The Yellow Jackets, with freshmen and sophomores manning every skill position and behind a patch-work offensive line, averaged 273.2 rushing yards per game, ranking fourth nationally and first in the ACC. Georgia Tech also led the ACC in total offense (372.5 ypg).
Johnson, who won more games than any first-year coach in Georgia Tech history, was named the ACC Coach of the Year and the CBSSportsline.com National Coach of the Year in 2008.
Several of Johnson’s players received individual accolades following the 2008 season. Sophomore running back Jonathan Dwyer was named the ACC Player of the Year after leading the league in rushing. Senior defensive end Michael Johnson was an AFCA first team All-American. Senior defensive tackle Darryl Richard won the ACC’s prestigious Tatum Award for his performance on the field and in the classroom. Eight different Yellow Jackets earned All-ACC honors, including four who were first team selections.
“Paul Johnson is the best fit, the best choice for the Georgia Tech head coaching position,” Georgia Tech athletic director Dan Radakovich said. “He will educate young men, represent Georgia Tech at the highest level, he will win football games and play for championships.
“He accomplished feats at aServiceAcademythat many thought were not possible. He looks at his talent and maximizes it. Whether as an assistant coach atHawai’i, or as the head coach atGeorgiaSouthern or Navy, he has figured out how to be successful.”
Prior to Johnson’s arrival inAtlanta, he earned unprecedented success at Navy.
Johnson coached six years at Navy, where in 2007 the Midshipmen won a fifth straight Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy, earned a postseason bowl bid for the fifth consecutive year and beat Notre Dame for the first time since 1963. Johnson was a finalist for the 2007 Liberty Mutual National Coach of the Year.
In six seasons at Navy, Johnson compiled a record of 45-29.
Johnson took over a Navy football program that was coming off the worst two-year span in its 123-year history (1-20) and had recorded just two winning seasons in the last 20 years. After a 2-10 mark in Johnson’s first year, the Midshipmen achieved what many thought was no longer possible at an Academy. Johnson brought the Midshipmen back into the national spotlight with a 43-19 (.694) record over the last four-plus years.
Johnson dominated the other two Service Academies like no other coach in the school’s annals, posting an 11-1 (.917) overall record, including a perfect 6-0 mark against rival Army. Last year’s senior class was the first in school history to post a perfect 8-0 mark against Army and Air Force.
Johnson’s Navy teams improved as each season progressed. Over the last five years, Navy posted a 13-2 (.867) record over the final three games of the season and outscored the opposition 611-335 in those contests. In games in which Johnson had more than a week to prepare for an opponent, the Midshipmen went 15-6 (.714) over the last four years combined.
The Midshipmen led the nation in rushing last season for an unprecedented third consecutive year, producing more than 350 yards per game. Under Johnson, Navy never finished lower than third nationally in rushing offense.
Navy ranked among the nation’s highest-scoring teams last season, averaging 39.92 points per outing. The 2007 Mids also ranked in the top 10 nationally in kickoff returns and in fewest sacks allowed. Johnson’s teams have been successful off the field as well as Navy ranked No. 1 in the country in graduation rates. In 2004, Johnson was named Bobby Dodd National Coach of the Year after leading Navy to a 10-2 record, tying the school record for wins set in 1905, and won a bowl game (34-19 victory vs. New Mexico in the Emerald Bowl) for just the fifth time in the history of the program.
In 2003, Johnson led Navy to an 8-5 record and brought the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy back toAnnapolisfor the first time since 1981, propelling Navy to a bowl game for the first time since 1996. The Mids became just the sixth team in NCAA history to go from a winless season to a bowl game in two years or less.
Before arriving atAnnapolis, Johnson served as head coach atGeorgiaSouthern from 1997 to 2001. AtGeorgiaSouthern, Johnson posted a 62-10 (.861) record, won two straight I-AA National Championships (1999 and 2000), five consecutive Southern Conference Championships and was named the Division I-AA National Coach of the Year four straight years (1997-2000).
After Johnson took over as head coach atGeorgiaSouthern in 1997, he returned the Eagle program to national prominence statistically and in the won-lost ledger. In addition to Georgia Southern’s 62-10 mark, the Eagles scored 2,855 points (39.7 points per game), picked up 25,941 rushing yards (360.3 yards per game), 7,816 passing yards (108.6 yards per game) and 33,757 total yards (468.8 yards per game). GSU scored 380 touchdowns in the Johnson Era, an average of 5.3 per game. The Eagles’ scoring margin under Johnson was +21.5 (39.7-18.5).
Johnson picked up a milestone victory in the 2000 I-AA National Championship Game againstMontana. Not only did the 27-25 victory giveGeorgiaSouthern its second straight national title, but it was also Johnson’s 50th career win in four seasons. Only three other coaches in the history of Division I football won 50 or more games in four seasons — Walter Camp (1888-1891, 54-2 at Yale), George Woodruff (1892-1895, 53-4 at Penn) and Bob Pruett (1996-99, 50-4 atMarshall).
Johnson took over aGeorgiaSouthern program in 1997 that was 4-7 the previous year and orchestrated a turnaround that ranked among the NCAA’s best, directing the Eagles to a 10-3 record. He was named Southern Conference Coach of the Year by the media and Region II Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association.
In 1998, Johnson guided the Eagles to a perfect 11-0 regular season record and the school’s sixth NCAA Division I-AA National Championship Game appearance before finishing with a 14-1 mark. He directed a high-powered offensive unit that tied or broke 100 records during the campaign, again earned the league’s top coaching honor and received The Sports Network’s Eddie Robinson Award — symbolic of the division’s national coach-of-the-year selection.
In 1999, Johnson broughtGeorgiaSouthern its fifth national title, and the Eagles finished 13-2 while breaking 197 records. For his efforts, Johnson was honored as the 1999 AFCA and Chevrolet I-AA National Coach of the Year. Johnson duplicated the feat in the 2000 season as the Eagles repeated as national champions, again finishing 13-2, and Johnson captured the AFCA I-AA Coach of the Year award once more.
In five seasons atGeorgiaSouthern, Johnson’s squads broke or tied 379 individual and team school, conference, playoff or stadium records, ranked in the top 10 in 21 statistical categories and produced 31 All-Americans. The Eagles won an NCAA I-AA-record 39 consecutive games at home. Meanwhile, their 52 wins over those four seasons were the most in all of Division I.
Johnson was previously Navy’s offensive coordinator in 1995 and 1996 and his spread offense made an immediate impact, breaking five school records during the Mids’ five-win season in 1995.
Navy posted a 9-3 record the next season in 1996, including a 42-38 victory overCaliforniain the Aloha Bowl. It was Navy’s first winning season since 1982 and one of only two winning seasons the Mids had during a 19-year span. Prior to joining the Navy staff, Johnson spent eight seasons as the offensive coordinator at theUniversityofHawai’i(1987-94). He helped guide the Rainbows to their first Western Athletic Conference title and their first bowl appearance, coordinating an explosive offense that broke or equaled more than 160 school records.
While atHawai’i, Johnson developed a successful offensive unit which earned top-20 I-A statistical rankings in scoring offense, total offense and rushing offense during six of his eight seasons. He earned top offensive coach honors in the WAC and was named one of the top 10 assistant coaches in the country by The Sporting News.
After first arriving atGeorgiaSouthern in 1983 as defensive line coach, Johnson was promoted to offensive coordinator in 1985. Under his tutelage, record-setting quarterback Tracy Ham and the Eagle offense re-wrote the school record book while averaging 435 total yards and 36 points per contest.GeorgiaSouthern rolled to a combined 26-4 record and captured a pair of I-AA titles in 1985-86.
Johnson’s coaching career began when he was offensive coordinator and line coach at his alma mater, Avery County (N.C.) High School, in 1979-80. He accepted the offensive coordinator’s position atLees-McRaeJunior Collegein 1981, leading his offensive unit to a sixth-place national standing among NJCAA total offense leaders.
Johnson, a native ofNewland,N.C., earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education fromWestern Carolinain 1979 and a Master’s degree in health and physical education from Appalachian State in 1982. He and wife, Susan, are the parents of a daughter, Kaitlyn.
PAUL JOHNSON LEDGER
As a Head Coach
Season School W-L Pct.
1997 GeorgiaSouthern 10-3 .769 Southern Conference Champions
1998 GeorgiaSouthern 14-1 .933 Southern Conference Champions I-AA Runner-Up
1999 GeorgiaSouthern 13-2 .867 Southern Conference Champions I-AA National Champion
2000 GeorgiaSouthern 13-2 .867 Southern Conference Champions I-AA National Champion
2001 GeorgiaSouthern 12-2 .857 Southern Conference Champions
2002 Navy 2-10 .167
2003 Navy 8-5 .615 EV1.netHoustonBowl
2004 Navy 10-2 .833 Emerald Bowl Champions
2005 Navy 8-4 .667 Poinsettia Bowl Champions
2006 Navy 9-4 .692 Meineke Car Care Bowl
2007 Navy 8-4 .667 Poinsettia Bowl
2008 Georgia Tech 9-4 .692 Chick-fil-A Bowl
2009 Georgia Tech 11-3 .786 ACC Champions/ FedEx Orange Bowl
2010 Georgia Tech 6-7 .461 AdvocareIndependenceBowl
GSU Totals (5 seasons) — 62-10 (.861)
Navy Totals (6 seasons) — 45-29 (.608)
Georgia Tech Totals (3 seasons) — 26-14 (.650)
Career Totals (14 seasons) — 133-53 (.715)
’79-80 –AveryCounty(N.C.) High School
’08-present–Georgia Tech (26-14)
BIRTHDATE — August 20, 1957