SouthernPigskin had an article today titled ” Is Paul Johnson Bad for the ACC “. It was an interesting, but flawed piece. The author’s premise is that for the ACC to catch the SEC in football they need to start winning more recruiting battles in the state of Georgia. Paul Johnson as the head coach at Georgia Tech is not recruiting his own state well enough and that in turn hurts the ACC.
A couple of things here. First I’m not one to defend Paul Johnson’s recruiting. By and large I think he’s done a pretty mediocre job recruiting in general. That said there is not a single Georgia Tech coach in the last 25 years, has out recruited Georgia in the state of Georgia.
Not Bobby Ross who won national title, Not George O’ Leary who brought good talent to Georgia Tech, not Chan Gailey despite winning the Calvin Johnson sweepstakes, and definitely not Paul Johnson. Georgia Tech is just not going out recruit the Georgia Bulldogs in the state of Georgia. In addition, when you are surrounded by Florida State, Alabama, Auburn, South Carolina, and Clemson all within 2 hours of your borders and you’ve got the toughest academic restrictions of any school mentioned, you are going to be on the short end of that recuiting stick most of the time.
Paul Johnson should recruit better, there is no question about that, but it’s not all him or his system.
The 2nd thing I want to discuss is the narrative of the ACC trying to catch the SEC in football simply because they share several states. The SEC is filled huge rabid football fanbases while the ACC has several private schools with small student bodies alumni bases. In at least three of the ACC’s biggest brand names, Duke, UNC, and Syracuse football isn’t even the number 1 sport. What the ACC must do isn’t compare itself to the SEC, but simply become good enough that it’s elite teams are in a position to compete for a national title.
Last year was a perfect example as Florida State marched to the national title. Wins over nationally ranked Clemson and Miami teams gave FSU enough credibility and exposure that there was never question of their resume. This was opposed to Ohio State that was undefeated most of the season, but fought credibility issues all year.
Does this mean the ACC doesn’t need to get better?
Of course not. The ACC still has plenty of room for improvement. In a perfect world the ACC would hover around 4 or 5 ranked teams with 2 or 3 top 15 teams in a given year. Last year was close with FSU, Clemson, and Duke finishing as ranked teams. The problem was there was significant dropoff from team 3 to team 4. The conference need to get a deeper especially in the middle, but catching the SEC from top to bottom is not a necessity.