The media is flush with articles debating the merits of Paul Johnson and his potential to succeed at a BCS level schools. Here are a few of the highlights:
"Why would what you do on offense affect for one minute who you can recruit on defense?" Johnson said. "Let's see, I have an offensive lineman who wants to play in the NFL and is 6-7 and 295 pounds, but he's not going to come there because you run the ball? ... [If you run the option], everybody says you can't recruit running backs? Auburn had Bo Jackson, Brent Fullwood and Lionel James. It is ludicrous. If you are winning, kids are going to go there."
"Urban [Meyer] has done a great job at Florida disguising what they do," Johnson said. "Nobody thinks they are an option offense, just like Rich Rodriguez at West Virginia. They run the option 70 percent of the time, but nobody calls them an option team because they do it from the gun. Rich is a good coach and I think he has a good system. You can't worry about [outside perceptions]."
In 1991, Johnson's offense at Hawaii scored 42 points against a Notre Dame team that won 10 games. Eight years later Johnson's Georgia Southern team went to Oregon State and scored 41 points against Dennis Erickson's Beavers (who also went to a bowl game). Any argument that this spread option offense, which is unique from other option-based attacks, couldn't be successful with better players is probably a bit shortsighted.
"Let's assume that you went to a school in the SEC," Johnson said. "Why would those bigger and faster players not be able to run this as well or better than the guys are here? If we can move the ball at Navy against Notre Dame, why wouldn't we be able to take the guys at Georgia and move the ball against Notre Dame?
"I think that there is a perception out there that it would be hard to recruit to, or that the alumni wouldn't like it. But I don't know how much of that stuff is really out there. Honestly, I don't worry about it."
On defense, Navy uses multiple fronts and blitz packages and disguises coverages to offset the fact that it's one of the smaller teams in Division I-A.
"Whatever you do, (players) have to believe they can do it," Johnson said. "You have to sell people that what you're doing gives them a chance. If that's the case, then they sell out for you. If not, then you're going to struggle."
"I really believe if Paul had the talent that's at Carolina right now, they would definitely be going bowling this year ... and maybe playing for the ACC championship."
Maybe he's a little biased, he admitted, being a brother and all.
Paul Johnson has done more with less at Navy than any climber in the sport. Yet his name rarely emerges when the inevitable vacancies beckon. Why? It's not because he's 49, has won everywhere he has been, took over a putrid program, went 31-13 and led Navy to three straight bowl games. It's certainly not because he's 93-23 his last nine seasons as a head coach.
It's because at some point in the warped, myth-building business, Johnson got typecast. He and his staff have run the ball so long, Southeastern Conference and Big Ten athletic directors don't even make a telephone call, figuring he'll bring the triple option to their school and frighten the NFL-bound recruits away. The thinking is, how could a guy grooming U.S. naval officers possibly know the first thing about developing a five-star recruit?
That ignorance keeps Johnson at Navy, where, it should be mentioned, he's completely happy and signed until the next decade. His peers know the tremendous job he and his staff have done, but that's not enough to kill long-held perceptions about a coach who exclusively runs the ball.
"That's the real joke: that people don't understand you have play to the personnel you have," he said. "We run because it better suits us. We run the ball because it kills the clock and keeps our defense off the field, because we don't have monster linemen to pass-protect, because we don't have a cannon-armed quarterback.
Okay, we should drop all pretense and hire this guy now. I mean, honestly, this is an exceptionally smart coach who basically says that if he does not have the talent he will find a way and if he has the talent he will be even better. And it is obvious, as I said, his schemes have been "typecast" because the media is too lazy to actually do real research before puting a label on something. Johnson is the right fit. All of the garbage about recruiting and the type of schemes he runs is simply that garbage. The proof is in the pudding and three bowl teams at a school which nevers pull in a recruiting class higher than around 100th in the rankings tells me the guy just knows to win. How much more will that be the case if you place him at a BCS school with name recognition and better resources?
I say UNC should find out as soon as possible.