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Johnson making believers out of Tech Nation

About two years ago I used this space to sing the praises of Paul Johnson.

Johnson was doing something nobody thought was ever possible-turning the football team at the Naval Academy into a force to be reckoned with on the gridiron.

Johnson's triple-option offense, or whatever it's called, might have seemed like a novelty to the casual football fan. A perfect fit for those young men who were getting ready to be officers in the Navy or the Marines, not athletes seeking a huge paycheck by playing in the NFL.

But Johnson was winning and going to bowl games with it, so something must have worked.

Thanks to the Internet and today's modern technology, the column went world wide as graduates from Navy read it, and appreciated the fact that I recognized what Johnson was doing with men who would soon be protecting our country from harm.

It was cool to get e-mails from men and women on ships in parts of the world I had never heard of, or from parents proud of their young men who were mixing tough academics with football to become the definition of true-student athletes.

I even joked that Paul Johnson was the right man for the job at Georgia Tech. Last year after Navy beat Notre Dame for the first time since Roger Staubach was quarterbacking the Midshipmen back in the 1960s, I made the comment in an almost sarcastic way that Paul Johnson should be the new head coach at Georgia Tech.

I never thought it would come true.

Little did I know.

But Tech athletic director Dan Radakovich saw something in Johnson, and now the man belongs to the Yellow Jacket nation.

Across the board, Tech fans are looking for, and expecting a bright future now that Johnson has set up shop in Atlanta.

Tech could easily be undefeated had it not been for a tough loss at Virginia Tech.

The Yellow Jackets haven't played the nation's toughest schedule, and beating up on teams like Jacksonville State, or Gardner-Webb, the little school the Yellow Jackets play this weekend, isn't overly impressive, but there's a breath of fresh air blowing through the Tech campus thanks to Johnson.

Many Tech fans were taking a wait-an- see approach with Johnson this season. Even some long-time Tech supporters were skeptical about whether the new coach's run-first offense could work against opponents in the ACC.

There weren't many Jacket fans who thought their football team was going to jump out to a 4-1 record.

The Yellow Jackets are 4-1 because they have bought into the Paul Johnson system.

Johnson is a hard-nosed coach who demands perfection, and it's rubbing off on this group of young men who only want to get better.

Athletes like Jonathan Dwyer are running over opponents like they are standing still. Freshman quarterback Jaybo Shaw has stepped in for the injured Josh Nesbitt, and Tech hasn't missed a beat.

On defense, two players with local ties to the Southern Crescent, former North Clayton star Morgan Burnett and Union Grove graduate Kyle Jackson are among the leading tacklers for Tech, creating some long days for opponents.

Last week, the Yellow Jackets only led Duke 3-0 at halftime, but exploded in the final two quarters to win 27-0. A year, ago, the Yellow Jackets might have found away to lose to the lesser talented Blue Devil team.

Against the Blue Devils last week, Shaw passed when he had to, finding Damaryiuys Thomas for 230 yards and a TD, and Dwyer ran for a career best 159 yards.

Sure, Tech still has some tough games with Clemson, Florida State, North Carolina, Miami, Virginia, and of course Georgia left on its slate, but with Johnson running things down, the future is bright.

The man cares about three things, winning the ACC title, beating Georgia and contending for a national title.

So fasten your seat belts Tech fans, Paul Johnson is going to make it an interesting ride down at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

(Doug Gorman is sports editor of the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached at dgorman@news-daily.com)