In Johnson's view, his options open

The Baltimore Sun

GREENSBORO, Ga. - Paul Johnson folds his arms and inhales. It's not that the former Navy coach is tired of answering questions from the media. Rather, it's one query that has exasperated him.

How, Johnson was asked at least a half-dozen times yesterday during the Atlantic Coast Conference football media day, will your option-based spread offense - the one run so successfully at Navy - translate at Georgia Tech in the ACC?

It's an offense Navy employed in scoring 30 or more points in six straight games last season. Johnson has run variations of the scheme, built around misdirection, for five years at Georgia Southern and the past six at Navy. Georgia Tech hired him in December.

Sitting in a hotel meeting room, Johnson didn't lose his cool. But it was clear he had begun to consider the questions about his offense demeaning, not only to his coaching abilities, but also to Navy.

"I get a kick out of, 'Will this work on this level?' " said Johnson, wearing a gold-and-white Yellow Jackets pullover. "I'm like, 'Are we playing the NFC East?' Last I looked, the last six years at Navy we were playing Division I teams. We played five or six from the ACC. We played Notre Dame every year. I don't think it's a question of fundamentally will it work. It's, 'Can we execute it and run it just like any other offense?' "

Johnson has been feeding his Georgia Tech players a steady diet of Navy video to illustrate how the offense is run. He says spring practices went well, although he described the spring game - marred by turnovers - as "horrific."

Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen recalled yesterday how the Terrapins had to rally to beat Johnson's Navy team, 23-20, at M&T; Bank Stadium in 2005.

"I don't think anybody will like playing against it," said Friedgen, whose team doesn't face Georgia Tech this season. "I think Paul will try to develop a much better passing attack off it and then he'll have balance."

Although Navy emphasized the run, Johnson said he wouldn't hesitate to pass more if he had the players. "There were years in Hawaii where we threw the ball for over 200 yards a game," he said.

* NoteFriedgen expressed concern about a suggested injury-reporting process endorsed by many ACC coaches. Under the policy, players' status would be announced on the Thursday before games as "will play," "probable," "questionable," "doubtful" or "out." Friedgen said he's concerned only some schools might follow the guidelines.

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