When Paul Johnson brought his triple-option offense from Navy to Georgia Tech in 2008, the prevailing theory was that ACC defenses would need only a season or two to force the Yellow Jackets into a conventional system.
There was little way of knowing, even among the league's coaches, that Johnson's flexbone strategies would constantly evolve.
The Yellow Jacket plays that N.C. State will face Saturday in Carter-Finley Stadium will be radically different from what the ACC saw from Johnson's first Georgia Tech team.
"They're throwing the ball so much more now ... it's mind-boggling," Wolfpack coach Tom O'Brien said. "It changes them. Obviously, they decided they were going to get into the passing game, and it's helped. It takes a lot of your (run) support (away).
"They've always put pressure inside. Now it puts pressure on your perimeter support people to play the outside (option pitch) game, plus the passing game."
A fairly amazing aspect of Johnson's evolution is that he's beefed up the passing attack at no expense to the running game.
In his first three seasons, the Yellow Jackets' average rushing output per game was 273.2 yards in 2008, 295.4 in '09 and 323.3 last season.
Only the '09 team, with standout receiver Demaryius Thomas, averaged more than 100 yards passing per game, and that team averaged only 126.7 yards.
Through four games in 2011, the undefeated Yellow Jackets are averaging 231.8 yards passing and almost 400 per game rushing.
"The surprise element of the passing is just ambushing defensive backs," former Notre Dame coach Bob Davie said during last week's telecast of Georgia Tech's 35-28 win against North Carolina.
On one play, quarterback Tevin Washington easily faked two Tar Heels defensive backs into moving up for run support while receiver Stephen Hill ran right between them on a basic go pattern that resulted in a 59-yard touchdown pass.
O'Brien said it's vital this week that Wolfpack defensive backs don't spend much time trying to follow the 6-foot Washington.
"They do a lot of things to try to work your eyes and get your eyes off your keys," O'Brien said.
"You can't be staring into the backfield looking at the quarterback. You've got to be watching everything else that's going on and not the quarterback if you're going to have any chance at all against that offense."
But that, too, can come at a price against the outside option read. If the safety and cornerback play too far off the edge, Washington can use his foot speed to split the run support and gain 10 or more yards before the defense closes.
By tinkering with his tactics, Johnson has managed to shift much of the opposing defensive pressure away from linebackers and onto those defensive backs. It has also forced defenses to stretch their flanks.
North Carolina coach Everett Withers said Johnson's offense is almost impossible to adequately prepare for in one week. Kansas coach Turner Gill said exactly the same thing after his team lost 66-24 a week earlier.
All of which begs the question of why Johnson's offense hasn't been copied by more mainstream programs.
Davie said athletic directors don't like it because many fans see the system as being too run-oriented.
That thinking could change if the Yellow Jackets keep passing for more than 200 while still running with such ease.
In a way, Johnson is merely delivering on the vow he made upon leaving Navy.
"Most football people think this offense won't work in a BCS league," he said. "I disagree."