It was quickly becoming obvious that Paul Johnson was going to address the defensive side of the ball immediately after the Orange Bowl game was concluded. Throughout this season the defense has been unable to control the line of scrimmage which has resulted in giving up as many big plays as the triple option offense was producing. This type of ratio is not acceptable regardless of what offensive scheme a team utilizes. This lack of being able to stop an opposing offense finally caught up with the Yellow Jackets in the last 3 games of this season. After the UGA game exposed our down linemen by rushing for more than 300 yards, that was the beginning of the end for Dave Wommack.
Even during the ACC Championship game we gave up yards and touchdowns at a ridiculous rate but were still able to win the game based on Paul Johnson’s ability to answer each touchdown with a score of his own. But this lack of trust in the performance of the defense for the entire campaign was not about to be tolerated much longer. My impression injuries aside, the performance in the Orange Bowl was going to dictate whether or not a new Defensive Coordinator was going to be hired.
The instant 14 to 0 deficit to Iowa inside of the first quarter was the end of the line regardless of who eventually won the game. Making folk heroes out of another team’s offensive players does not, and did not sit well with Paul Johnson. It might be tolerable to give up 233 yards to a running back who was a Heisman Trophy contender and will be a first round draft pick, but to have a quarterback go for a career day against your team after being out of action for 6 weeks with an injury is absolutely unacceptable at any level of competitive football. Just as UCLA made Edgerrin James a household name back in 1998, Georgia Tech has enhanced the All American prospects of quarterback Ricky Stanzi.
Clemson’s offense was throttled by Kentucky in their bowl game even though the Tigers did eventually win a close game. UGA wasn’t running for 300+ yards against Texas A & M in their bowl game but did win handily as a result of their play on special teams that produced 2 touchdowns. Making the case that something needed to be done at Tech in short order. I will point out that I have seen a similar all offense no defense program back in1998 with another major BCS program that has never to this day recovered from their debacle.
UCLA! They scored a ton of points under Bob Toledo but gave them up in droves. Had the team played any defense that year, coupled with their undefeated record, they were headed to the first BCS national championship game. Unfortunately they lost to Miami in a late season hurricane makeup game by a score of 49 to 45, and in the process made running back Edgerrin James of the “U” a first round draft choice that day as he ran over them for 200 yards and 10 yards+ per rushing attempt. UCLA has never recovered from that game to this day. In fact, in their very next game after losing out on the BCS National Championship was the Rose Bowl against Wisconsin. The Badgers running back, Ron Dayne, ran wild against the UCLA defense going for about 250 yards as they defeated the Bruins 38 to 31. This is exactly the type of situation that Paul Johnson would not let happen to this program, and the decision was made.
Al Groh has been coaching football for a long time, and you don’t become a coach, let alone a defensive coordinator in the NFL under Bill Parcells unless you are; committed, great at what you do, and able to sacrifice and work the long hours necessary to become not only a winner, but a coach on a winning Super Bowl team. Al Groh has accomplished all of that as a defensive coordinator for the New York Giants. To be able to bring Al Groh to the Flats as the defensive coordinator for the Yellow Jackets is going to result in huge dividends for this program. What I like best about this hire, transcending his very impressive resume’, is that Al Groh chose not to sit around collecting his 4 million+ buyout from the University of Virginia. Al Groh wants to coach young men because that is his chosen profession. More importantly; he can coach and teach young men the type of toughness necessary to become a stout defense.
I’ll let the “know nothings” who post on all of the various boards make their snide remarks about this hire because they are truly terrified of what this addition means for Georgia Tech football. Just imagine what will happen if we can force our opponents to punt the football 6 or 7 times in a game. Go back through the Groh years at Virginia and you can see that he recruited and produced some excellent NFL defensive football players. Anybody remember Chris Long? Ahmad Brooks? How about Darryl Blackstock? Kai Parham? Perhaps you remember Keenan Carter? Clint Sintim? These are but a few of the recent vintage players solely on the defensive side of the football that Al Groh has sent on to the next level.
Right now Al Groh is recruiting several linebackers that he had on the radar at his prior institution. They will be making trips to the Tech campus in the next few weeks as they make that all important decision as to where to go to college for the next 4 years. He has also met with some defensive linemen who as of this date are still undecided as to where they will go for school. We had 4 scholarships open up with the departure of our juniors, and I think that 3 of those will be filled with linebackers and hopefully another defensive tackle.
As anyone who reads my articles can attest, I am not a fan of kickers, and neither is Paul Johnson. But we received an oral commitment from one who had long ago committed elsewhere to fill 1 of the recent slots that became available. Apparently this kid can kick a football out of the end zone as he had 48 touchbacks in his senior season. This is a huge advantage for the defense by making a team begin their possession on the 20 yard line as opposed to the 40 where most of our opponents started last season. This alone will make us much more productive on defense by simply lengthening the field for our opponents. Now we need to get ready for the winter conditioning program and carry that into melding the defense into a stout group for the 2010 season. Go Jackets!