Collins must back up words with wins to keep job at Georgia Tech

Geoff Collins
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ATLANTA — Geoff Collins has toned down the hokey slogans that were part of his blueprint to build a proud, new brand at Georgia Tech.

He seems to realize there’s only one thing that really matters.

Winning.

After three seasons that each produced only three victories, Collins heads into Year 4 likely needing to show significant improvement to keep his job.

Only one other coach in Georgia Tech’s modern era has gone this deep into his tenure with a worse record than Collins’ 9-25 mark. That was Bill Curry, who was 8-24-1 at the three-year mark but at least saw signs of hope coming off a 6-5 campaign.

Not so for this Georgia Tech squad, which was outscored 100-0 by Notre Dame and eventual national champion Georgia in its final two games of 2021.

“We’re all tired of losing,” Collins said Saturday, less than 24 hours after the Yellow Jackets opened their preseason camp. “We want to play a really good brand of football. We want to make everybody proud who supports Georgia Tech.”

Everyone knew the road would be a bit bumpy after Collins took over in 2019, especially with the jarring transition from a run-oriented, option offense favored by his predecessor, Paul Johnson, to a pro-style attack.

Yet no one expected the Yellow Jacket to look like they’re starting over again this deep into the Collins era.

At the Atlantic Coast Conference’s preseason media event, Georgia Tech was picked to finish sixth in the Coastal Division, ahead of only Duke.

With a brutal schedule that includes three 10-win teams in the first five games – starting with Clemson on Labor Day at nearby Mercedes-Benz Stadium – it’s hard to envision a path that leads the Yellow Jackets to a better showing than last year’s 3-9 mark.

Collins is under as much heat as any coach in the country (well, perhaps excluding Auburn’s Bryan Harsin) and knows he’s got to show tangible proof that he’s got the program headed in the right direction.

That means actual wins, not just words.

His players know it, too.

“We know it hasn’t been the best couple of seasons,” senior receiver Malachi Carter said. “But if we dwell on that, this won’t be a good season, either.”

During a nearly half-hour session with the media at Georgia Tech’s indoor practice facility, Collins never mentioned the “404 culture,” his love of Waffle House or any of the other Atlanta-centric references he harped on during his first three years in hopes of giving his program a big-city appeal to potential recruits.

The incessant selling job prompted some critics to deride him as “Coach Slogan.”

Now, he’s got to show he can coach some football.

As is often the case for those under fire, Collins made some big changes to his coaching staff.

On the offensive side, he brought in Chip Long as coordinator and 2000 Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke to work with the quarterbacks.

Both were hired largely with the intent of getting more production out of quarterback Jeff Sims, who has a big arm and plenty of running ability but has been far too inconsistent over his first two seasons.

“Absolutely,” Collins conceded. “That was the focal point through the entire conversation, the entire (hiring) process.”

Long and Weinke will largely have Sims and the offense to themselves, giving Collins a chance to devote more time to the other side of the line.

The Yellow Jackets ranked near the bottom of the ACC in most defensive categories, giving up 455.3 yards and 33.5 points a game. In a sign of the struggles that ranged from the front line to the secondary, they had only 20 sacks (Virginia was the lone team with fewer) and ranked last in the ACC with a measly three interceptions.

Collins, who was known during his days as a defensive assistant for aggressive units that created plenty of havoc, must find a way to bring out that style with the Jackets.

“Obviously, a lot of decisions that were made (with the coaching staff) were made for me to be able to spend more time with the defense,” Collins said. “All the new, fresh ideas, and people I can lean on as well, have been very beneficial for the program.”

That all sounds good. Now, it must show up on the scoreboard.

If not, Georgia Tech could be looking for a new coach.

WVU RB Donaldson in concussion protocol, out for Baylor game

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) West Virginia running back CJ Donaldson is in concussion protocol and will miss next week’s home game with Baylor after he was injured in a loss to Texas, coach Neal Brown said Tuesday.

Donaldson remained on the ground after he was tackled on a short gain in the third quarter of Saturday’s 38-20 loss to the Longhorns. His helmet and shoulder pads were removed and he was carted off the field on a stretcher. After the game he was cleared to travel home with the team.

“He’s recovering,” Brown said. “There is a strict return-to-play (policy) that we have to follow here and I’m zero involved in it. All I do is ask the question. They don’t even start the return-to-play until they’re symptom free.”

Donaldson, a 240-pound freshman, leads the Mountaineers with 389 rushing yards and six touchdowns, with an average of 6.9 yards per carry.

West Virginia (2-3, 0-2 Big 12 Conference) is idle this week and hosts Baylor (3-2, 1-1) next Thursday, Oct. 13.

Taulia Tagovailoa says he visited brother, Tua, over weekend

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa was able to visit his brother, Tua, last weekend after the Terrapins’ game against Michigan State, he said Tuesday in his first comments to reporters since Tua left the Miami Dolphins’ game against Cincinnati last Thursday with a frightening head injury.

Taulia played in Maryland’s win over Michigan State on Saturday but was not made available to the media afterward. He said Tuesday he was able to go to Florida and spend some time with his brother, who suffered a concussion four days after taking a hit in another game but was cleared to return.

“He’s doing good, everything’s fine,” he said. “My biggest thing was just seeing him and spending as much time as I can with him. I came back Sunday night.”

Tagovailoa said he appreciates the support for his brother.

“My brother’s my heart. He’s someone I look up to, someone I talk to every day,” he said. “It was just a hard scene for me to see that.”

Tagovailoa said he was in constant contact with his mother about his brother’s situation, and he was finally able to talk to Tua on Friday night.

“I really just wanted to go there and just spend time with my family, hug them and stuff like that,” Taulia Tagovailoa said. “But he told me he’s a big fan of us, and he’d rather watch me play on Saturday. … After that phone call, I was happy and getting back to my normal routine.”

Tagovailoa indicated that his brother’s injury didn’t make him too nervous about his own health when he took the field again.

“I guess when that happens to someone like my brother, or when anything happens to one of my family members, I don’t really think of how it will be able to affect me,” he said. “I just think of: `Is he OK? How’s he doing?”‘

Although it was a short visit to Florida, he said he and Tua made the most of their chance to be together.

“I just wanted to make sure he’s healthy and stuff, which he is,” Taulia Tagovailoa said.