By CHARLES ODUM
ATLANTA (AP) — Geoff Collins has waited a long time to walk onto Grant Field as Georgia Tech’s coach.
Collins’ love affair with Georgia Tech began as a child and continued through some of his first jobs as an assistant. Finally, he’ll have his homecoming when the Yellow Jackets face South Florida in the new coach’s home debut on Saturday.
“When I was a little guy our Thanksgiving tradition was to come watch the Georgia Tech-Georgia JV Thanksgiving game,” Collins said Tuesday.
Pointing up at upper-deck seats in the stadium, Collins added “I’d sit up there in the top of those bleachers and watch the game and we’d go have Thanksgiving dinner.”
Collins would return for recruiting visits as a junior and senior at Rockdale County (Georgia) High School. His Georgia Tech dream began to take shape when he worked as a graduate assistant and then tight ends coach under George O’Leary. Finally, he was hired from Temple in December.
Asked about emotions he expects to experience on Saturday, Collins said “It’s going to be special.”
Last week’s 52-14 loss at No. 1 Clemson didn’t erase the warm feelings which will accompany Collins’ home debut. Expectations were low for Georgia Tech (0-1) against Clemson.
The visit from USF (0-1) is different. Coach Charlie Strong’s Bulls bring a seven-game losing streak to Atlanta, including last week’s 49-0 loss to No. 17 Wisconsin.
“I will say to you I still have confidence and I believe in this team and I know that we’re going to go take care of business,” Strong said Monday.
USF lost its last six games last season following a 7-0 start that included a 49-38 comeback win over Georgia Tech.
Here are some other things to know about the USF-Georgia Tech game:
OPTION NOT GONE, NOT FORGOTTEN
Georgia Tech has moved from the triple-option offense used by former coach Paul Johnson for 11 years to a spread pro-style attack. Tobias Oliver’s familiarity with the option at quarterback gives the Yellow Jackets freedom to mix in option plays. Plus, offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude says his offensive linemen remember how to block on option plays.
“Their familiarity with it up front and at the quarterback position is certainly something we have to maximize because they do it so well,” Patenaude said.
SLOW START FOR BELL
Strong was looking for dynamic offense when he hired Kerwin Bell as offensive coordinator. The Bulls were held to 26 yards rushing and 157 total yards last week. Bell led Valdosta State to the Division II national title last year with the nation’s top scoring offense.
Expect to see Oliver continue to share time with James Graham and Lucas Johnson.
“I think ultimately you want to settle on one guy and have one guy do everything,” Patenaude said. “I’m not certain we’re at that point yet.”
Each of the three has different strengths. Collins says the three have “a good mojo.”
“They work really well together,” he said. “They’re highly competitive, which I love about all three of them. They are still team-oriented guys and want what’s best for the team and understand the multiplicity we can have with all three of them is a differentiating factor moving forward.”
NEW MAN IN THE MIDDLE
Middle linebacker Patrick Macon, a transfer from Oklahoma State, had 15 total tackles — a high mark for USF since 2013 — and a forced fumble last week. He had four tackles for loss.
LOOKING FOR JOHNNY
No explanation was given as to why Johnny Ford, listed as a starting slot receiver, didn’t play against Wisconsin. Collins expects to see plenty of the super-quick Ford this week.
“He’s a dynamic player, dynamic athlete,” Collins said. ”… Not really sure … how they’re going to use him in the game plan, at running back or receiver or jet sweeps. A great deal of respect for him and the things he can do with the football.”
Ford ran for 787 yards with eight touchdowns in 2018.