Examining Groh’s work at Tech

From Doug Roberson:

When Paul Johnson hired Al Groh after firing Dave Wommack, he was asked what he liked about his new defensive coordinator.

Johnson, fresh off winning the 2009 ACC championship with a defense that oddly gave up a lot of big plays but was effective in big situations, said that Groh, known for his 3-4 defense, would be able to fix things when they were going wrong.

Some things – tackling, fundamentals, limiting big plays — have “broken” in the past two weeks in losses to Miami and Middle Tennessee State. The defense has given up more than 1,100 yards and an average of 45.5 points. There’s not a lot of time for repairs with this week’s game at Clemson, which averages 510 yards and 40.2 points per game with a balanced offense.

Johnson didn’t try to defend his team’s play during his press conference on Tuesday, but at the same time defended Groh while holding himself and his staff accountable.

“… I don’t think the man forgot everything he knew in the last two weeks,” Johnson said. “But ultimately, we’re responsible. We’ve got to get it on the field. It doesn’t matter what you know, it’s what happens. So we’ve got to do a better job of getting it on the field.”

The reasons for the poor play are somewhat evident: poor tackling, poor fundamentals and, against Middle Tennessee, a lack of energy. Johnson said “You’ve got to do some of that stuff. Every time the ball breaks the line of scrimmage, it doesn’t have to be a touchdown.”

At his introductory press conference in 2010, Groh said hoped the players would pick up the 3-4 as fast as possible, but said it usually takes three years for the players to operate more instinctually.

Now in year three, Groh’s defense is statistically worse than Wommack’s in his final season.

This year, the defense is allowing more points (26.8) and yards per game (397) than they have since Groh was hired, while allowing slightly fewer rushing yards (155.2).

In Wommack’s last season, the Yellow Jackets gave up 24.8 points and 360.3 yards per game. Their worst two-game stretch occurred against Mississippi State and Florida State in which they gave up an average of 37.5 points and a total 1,026 yards. The Yellow Jackets won both of those games because the defense forced seven turnovers and the offense averaged 46 points and totaled more than 1,000 yards.

Groh’s defense this year isn’t making those stops. The overtime losses to Virginia Tech and Miami illustrated the critical-stop issue. In the defeat to Middle Tennessee the defense, missing two key players because of injury, came out flat and it showed in the missed tackles that allowed the Blue Raiders to total more than 500 yards.

Groh said the team has always emphasized tackling drills in practice, and focused on it even more this week ahead of the game against the Tigers, who feature numerous playmakers like Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins who need but one mistake to turn the routine into a big play.

One thing Wommack’s defense had that Groh’s does not is a consistent playmaker.

Defensive end Derrick Morgan was Wommack’s big-play man, finishing with 12.5 sacks to win the conference’s defensive player of the year award before he left to become a first-round selection in the NFL draft. No Tech player has come close to reaching that total since. Linebacker Brad Jefferson had four in 2010 and Jeremiah Attaochu six last year.

No Tech player has more than one sack this year. The team has just seven. Attaochu, the outside linebacker many expected to become a force, has been dealing with injuries this year and hasn’t been as effective, posting just one-half sack.

Johnson said it’d be great to have another Morgan, but that it’s wishful thinking to expect to have one every year. He indicated that he hopes that players, like Attaochu or Jemea Thomas, who have shown a lot of potential, will become consistent playmakers.

“It’s not like we’re null and void of players,” he said.

Without that consistent playmaker to pressure quarterbacks, Tech’s defense is giving up big plays in campaign-promise bunches. After allowing 50 in 2010 and 47 in 2011, the defense has allowed 22 this year and is on pace to give up 57 if team plays in a bowl. Wommack’s defense gave up 66 in 2009, but made stops when it needed to defeat Wake Forest and Clemson in the ACC championship game.

Defensive end Izaan Cross said if the team will focus on everyone doing his job, “the playmakers will emerge.”

But he knows they can’t play like they did the previous two games if they hope to beat the Tigers.

“We’ve got to all come together and have a conscious effort to come out with everything we can,” he said. “It’s going to be a tough game.”

Tech under Groh

A look at Georgia Tech’s averages on defense in coordinator Al Groh’s three years:

Year/Scoring/Rushing/Passing/Total/Per play

2010: 25.2/169.7/201.9/371.6/5.7

2011: 26.1/161.5/197.6/359.2/5.5

2012: 26.8/155.2/241.8/397/5.7

Last year under Wommack

2009: 24.8/151.6/208.6/360.3/6.1

Thanks for reading. A word of caution: Everyone is welcome to his/her opinion, but profane language or antagonistism towards other commenters and posting under someone else’s handle are bannable offenses, no matter whose team you support. Consider this a warning.

In case you missed it…

Tech targets tackling flaws

Slowing pace crucial

ACC reverts to 8-game league schedule

Michael Carvell: Tech recruits react to 2-3 start

Offensive line not meeting Johnson’s expectations

Team leaders call for accountability

Notes: Abnormal heart rate gives Jackson scare

Tech considering safety options for stadium

Johnson addresses defense

Johnson: ‘You want fans that care’

Johnson to team: Stop pouting

Fitting MTSU loss into Tech history

After debacle, Tech braces for Clemson

Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog

571 comments Add your comment

JustinSyder

October 6th, 2012
6:59 pm

I don’t how Groh looks himself in the mirror and calls himself a Defensive Coordinator.

Go Jackets

October 6th, 2012
6:59 pm

2-4, another 600 yds given up. Tevin cant get anything when he has too. This tam needs an emema. If I’m CPJ, my recruiting pitch is ALL positions are open this spring!

DawgNole

October 6th, 2012
7:01 pm

GT1990
October 6th, 2012
6:56 pm

THERE IS NO WAY GROH WILL BE THE D CORD AFTER MONDAY. WITH GT HAVING A BYW WEEK THEY WILL TRY TO FIX THIS. IF HE IS NOT FIRED THEN I WOULD FIRE CPJ AT SEASON END!
_____________________

I just don’t see Tech making any midseason coaching changes–not that you shouldn’t.

ibidGT

October 6th, 2012
7:01 pm

@ Go Jackets,

and by ALL positions his coaching job included

Ol'JacketFan

October 6th, 2012
7:01 pm

I said it after the Miami game that if Al Groh had any decency he would have retired/resigned then. It’s quite apparent to me that he has none of the characteristics of being an honorable man. His players show what they think of him by their play.

WillGT

October 6th, 2012
7:02 pm

Well this season sucks, its a complete write off. Glad we found out at the beginning rather than mid season. Johnson won’t be fired guys, no way with his contract, Groh maybe. Tevins getting better, but Senior or not he needs to be benched and let Vlad Lee play. The D isn’t fixable this season. We have seen Grohs D work many times, but the players just don’t have any stamina. Not watching anymore of this season, can’t take it any more.

1 4 GT

October 6th, 2012
7:02 pm

THWAJC THWAJC THWAJC. No GT coverage today….no live blog for the game….THWAJC bunch of Georgie homers….Probably got the whole sports staff at Georgie game….THWAJC

WillGT

October 6th, 2012
7:03 pm

Also look at UGA when Richts job was on the line last year, he turned things around pretty quick. Maybe the same can happen with Tech? Just maybe,

The New Coach Hewitt

October 6th, 2012
7:03 pm

The AJC Staff was too embarrassed to be caught at a road GT game. Quite frankly I don’t blame them.

Rodeo

October 6th, 2012
7:05 pm

My Pre-game Predictions:

VL will not play today unless its late in the game or its a token single series. 100% RIGHT

TW will open up with a pass and then the offense will revert back to run plays. OK MISSED THAT ONE They will end up with less than 10 passes for the game unless VL plays. ACTUALLY 14 SO I WAS 71% RIGHT.

Anything close to the goal TW will call his own number. 75% RIGHT

If defense does not pressure the QB then Clem will score >40 points. 100% RIGHT

I AM, Nostradamus II

JustinSyder

October 6th, 2012
7:05 pm

If we lose to Boston College, we should disable the entire football program for 3 years and start over. They gave up over 500 yards of rushing to a winless Army team that runs the same offense as us.

Go Jackets

October 6th, 2012
7:05 pm

@ibidGT….He has one more year of mediocrity (next year), then CPJ will be canned. Hopefully he will stockpile “athletes” in this next class so as sophmores they can learn the new coaches system. I’ want Mike Leach, but no one is asking me.

CigarDawg

October 6th, 2012
7:06 pm

I really was hoping for the jackets. They looked better than most against Clem’s son and I thought they had a shot.

I hope some of you can still muster some in-state love for the ‘Dawgs against that other evil team from South Carolina tonight.

The New Coach Hewitt

October 6th, 2012
7:06 pm

Tackling is hard …. Mmmmmmmmmmmkay?

The New Coach Hewitt

October 6th, 2012
7:07 pm

I remember when I used to enjoy Saturdays.

yeller bug

October 6th, 2012
7:10 pm

We’ve given up a mile of offense in the last 3 games—a freakin’ MILE!

However, it was special teams that choked it—-another poor KO return, blocked FG, called a time out when the other team was punting…..that was the difference in the game.

Other notables is that CPJ does not have a 2 minute offense. I’ve been a supporter of him, but the coaching was awful today. If you’re going to have someone like Vad sitting on the bench, then at least have him train for a 2 minute offense and bring him in—he can pass. THe pass was open all day, but CPJ like a greyhound goes back to what he knows….of course the run was open too…Clemson has no D, but neither do we.

I disagree with the lack of recruits comments—our players are good enough to win. Today our coaches let the team down in a big, big way.

ibidGT

October 6th, 2012
7:11 pm

Yeah I have to agree with you, doubt he will be gone this year. Wishful thinking I guess.

UGA = Yawn

October 6th, 2012
7:12 pm

12 pages!? Stop caring. That is the only way to force change. You
really thought we had a chance? How clueless! The
4th down play on our own 37 yd line should have
indicated to you all was lost!

The New Coach Hewitt

October 6th, 2012
7:20 pm

We need to put a ban on hiring anyone as a coach named Paul.

JetBuzz

October 6th, 2012
7:33 pm

Ken, I have to agree, a new low for the AJC. No live coverage for such a historically big game in Death Valley? Not sure what, where, when, or how this came about. This is as unacceptable for this alum (and Atl native) as our “swiss-cheese” Defense and “fair-weather” Offense. A “L” for Jackets and AJC.

UGA = Yawn

October 6th, 2012
7:58 pm

CIgarDawg – really??? Had we won – u had a slight chance of that
happening. After 3 losses in a row – all of GT is hoping
for a UGA loss.