Updated: Al Groh fired at Tech

Al Groh will receive an unwanted respite from his 100-hour work weeks and his intricate game plans. After a 32-game term, the Georgia Tech defensive coordinator was relieved of his duties Monday.

In coach Paul Johnson’s analysis, Groh did not fall short in his effort or smarts.

“What’s inside his head, he’s very knowledgeable,” Johnson said. “There’s no questioning that. The problem was becoming, what’s in there, we weren’t seeing on the field.”

Groh’s tenure concluded in a blizzard of points, yards and missed tackles. In Tech’s past three games, losses to Miami, Middle Tennessee State and Clemson, the Yellow Jackets gave up an average of 46 points and 573.3 yards. Opponents converted 31 of 46 third downs into first downs. Improbably, Tech fared slightly worse when opponents faced 3rd-and-7 or longer than 3rd-and-6 or less.

Tech gave up more than 40 points in the three consecutive games, the first time that has happened in school history.

“I think it’s a call to everybody, the coaches, the players, myself, everybody, that we need to do better, that we’re not giving up on the season and the way we’ve played is not acceptable,” Johnson said.

Hired following the 2009 season as a replacement for Dave Wommack because of his ability to teach his scheme and adjust, Groh came to Tech after nine seasons as head coach at Virginia and boasting an NFL pedigree. A longtime friend and colleague of NFL coaching legends Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells, Groh brought a 3-4 scheme and a confident, professorial manner.

“We’re impatient to make it look good,” he said shortly after his hire. “How fast we can do it, we’ll have to see.”

Instead, the Jackets were bogged by problems with communication and alignment and had trouble tackling. Poor finishes also began to plague the team. After Tech’s 6-0 start last season, the Jackets were outscored 48-14 in the fourth quarter of the final seven games of the season and finished 8-5. Particularly devastating was a 30-27 overtime loss to Utah in the Sun Bowl, a game that Tech led 27-13 with less than seven minutes to go.

This season, Tech has been outscored 71-48 in the fourth quarter, its worst quarter on offense and defense and the only period (besides overtime) in which it has been outscored. In losses to Virginia Tech, Miami and Clemson, Tech has held fourth-quarter leads in each only to lose.

Wommack was fired after the defense ranked 54th in yards allowed and 56th in scoring in FBS. Under Groh, Tech finished roughly the same in his first two seasons before plunging to 90th in yards and 89th in scoring this season.

“It was inevitable, at least to me, that it wasn’t getting better,” Johnson said.

Groh will be replaced on an interim basis by secondary coach Charles Kelly, who has been on staff since 2006. Kelly has previously served as a defensive coordinator at Nicholls State and Jacksonville State, two FCS teams. Andy McCollum will move from coaching the defensive line to inside linebackers and Joe Speed will shift from inside linebackers to outside linebackers. Special-teams coordinator David Walkosky will coach the defensive line. Walkosky and McCollum also have experience as defensive coordinators. Johnson said he will provide assistance, as well.

Johnson said he wants to simplify the defense, have players spend more time with their position coaches and conduct more live-hitting drills in practice.

“To me, defense is energy and playing fast and enthusiasm and all those things,” Johnson said. “I think it’s hard to get that if you don’t go live some.”

Johnson made the decision Monday morning. He met with Groh later, and told the team at a meeting in the afternoon. In a statement, Groh said he respected the decision and thanked the defensive assistants and the team. Groh’s contract, a two-year deal with a school option for a third, called for him to make “a minimum of $344,000” this season in his option year.

“I aimed to give the best that I had every day,” he said in the statement. “It’s been an honor to be a part of the legacy of Georgia Tech. I feel positive that this is a good time in life to move on to a new situation.”

Former linebacker and team captain Steven Sylvester said Monday that he enjoyed playing for Groh, citing his knowledge base and his ability to explain difficult concepts easily. Despite the age difference, players related well with the 68-year-old Groh, often stopping in to his office to find him listening to anything from Jay-Z to Maroon 5 to Bruce Springsteen.

“He was a friend and he was a coach,” Sylvester said. “I know a lot of the guys down there are really going to miss him.”

With Tech in its bye  week, the team had Monday off and will resume practicing Tuesday. The Jackets’ next game will be Oct. 20 at home against Boston College.

“I didn’t want to give up the rest of the season,” Johnson said. “I still think we can come back and have a good season. That’s why I did it now.”

Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog

863 comments Add your comment

T-TIme

October 8th, 2012
6:30 pm

38 points a game to teams with no defense….. impressive

GTpak

October 8th, 2012
6:31 pm

Go after Gif Smith now and if he isn’t interested then go after the two Ignition listed.

Go Jackets, now D get after them!!!

Atlanta truth

October 8th, 2012
6:31 pm

@jeffjacket —– or whatever weak handle you maintain ……. a fantasy football defense does NOT work in the NCAA …… it’s ok honey. We realize you are not up for big boy football. Go back to Athens and the playpen.

USMC Dawg

October 8th, 2012
6:31 pm

“We are averaging 38 points a game. Those complaining about the offense are stupid, blind, or both.”

BOTH!

Chief Yellow Jacket

October 8th, 2012
6:33 pm

Firing coach in mid-season is bad medicine. It looks and is, desperate, but now tha it’s done, best of luck to the defensive coaches still in place. Players need to be held accountable also, and I’m sure CPJ is doing that too.

USMC Dawg

October 8th, 2012
6:35 pm

“Firing coach in mid-season is bad medicine. It looks and is, desperate, but now tha it’s done, best of luck to the defensive coaches still in place. Players need to be held accountable also, and I’m sure CPJ is doing that too.”

I think this situation was a little different. You already had the 4 losses and CPJ needed to stop the bleeding. Why wait? By this time next year it will be a distant memory.

Chief Yellow Jacket

October 8th, 2012
6:35 pm

T-TIme

October 8th, 2012
6:35 pm

Anyone who ignores the Offensive problems are stupid, blind or both. It takes BOTH offense and defense to win a game. At least be knowledgeable enough to identify problems areas.

Stop sipping the Kool-aid.

T-TIme

October 8th, 2012
6:36 pm

@USMC Dawg…. agree, firing mid season may hurt more than help

Paul Johnson & Washington reincarnated as Gailey & Ball

October 8th, 2012
6:36 pm

Oh Dang Ethel Lookie what happened today at Tech>> Groh was fired & NOW!!!! Tech needs to fire CPJ , RAD & Sit Washington down or let him take the water bottles out to the team at timeouts……THen get a coach & AD that has the kill instint to win games. I’m ashamed to be associated with Tech at all. Backyard football teams could win here. Washington (aka Reggie Ball Jr) just sucks even though he has the most TD’s so far this year. It’s just his “It’s All About ME ATTITUDE”.

Chief Yellow Jacket

October 8th, 2012
6:38 pm

USMC devil dawg, you’re probably right. I just don’t see any of the assistants as promising even in an interim role, and there aren’t any permanent replacements available midseason. There is some sense in getting a head start on building for the next season, but w/o a coach in place? Wonder if it’s a sign that CPJ is feeling some heat himself?

George Stein

October 8th, 2012
6:39 pm

I never said the offense the offense was perfect, T-Time. I questioned the intelligence or vision or both of those that expect it to bat 1.000.

You’re probably right, USMC Dawg. Be safe wherever you are.

Delbert D.

October 8th, 2012
6:39 pm

The attractiveness of the 3-4 is that you don’t have to have a great DE, not to mention 2 really good ones. The OLBs that fill that pass rusher role are easier to find, at least for the NFL. In the past, Tech has had some really good 4-3 DEs and 4-3 DTs, though. If a 4-3 DC comes in next year, the DEs on the roster will most likely be learning DT roles, and Attaochu will be a DE.

GTBob

October 8th, 2012
6:40 pm

Firing coach in mid-season is bad medicine. It looks and is, desperate

Did you want to give up 40 points and 500 yards of offense against Boston College instead?

Rock_Eagle

October 8th, 2012
6:43 pm

Giff Smith would be a good choice. Great guy and a good recruiter. I just think Tech might have a shot at a GREAT recruiter in Lance Thompson. I guess I am identifying myself, but both of them have been among my college teammates. Thompson at The Citadel and Smith after I made the transfer to Georgia Southern. Both of these guys should be on the short list, and I’m partial to both.

http://www.rivals.com/content.asp?CID=771819

billyho55

October 8th, 2012
6:43 pm

BOUT DAMN TIME! ALL THAT NEEDS TO BE SAID! I HATE THE NOTION OF ANYONE LOSING THEIR JOB, BUT, IN THIS CASE THE WRITING WAS ALL OVER GRANT FIELD!

JD in Mayretta

October 8th, 2012
6:45 pm

Good decision but should have been done after last year. Does anyone else out there think the way I do, that Tevin Washington has become the reincarnation of Reggie Ball?! He does enough good things to get you excited, but when it comes to crunch time, he pulls a “Reggie”.

Chief Yellow Jacket

October 8th, 2012
6:46 pm

The future of the Gailey administration at Buffalo isn’t looking too strong right now, so maybe Giff Smith will be available. I know his upsides in recruiting and defensive line coaching, but not sure why he wasn’t considered when Wommack was let go. CPJ is plenty familiar with Smith, who he knows from Ga. Southern even before Tech. He hasn’t gotten any more significant coaching experience since the last time he was passed over.

WHO CARES!

October 8th, 2012
6:46 pm

Who cares about Tech. Why are they open anyway when we have schools that really teach engineering, like Cal Tech, MIT and the others! Tech should formally be named the trade school it is. Those “students(?)” go four years to learn HVAC, etc. There are a lot of schools that teach that in a few months. Close Tech and save the Georgia taxpayers some money!

Delbert D.

October 8th, 2012
6:47 pm

Letting Groh go now should mean that Tech has the opportunity to keep the relationships with recruits intact.

George Stein

October 8th, 2012
6:48 pm

Funny to read the names from 2008 and see where they are now, Rock Eagle.

George Stein

October 8th, 2012
6:48 pm

Apparently WHO CARES! cares.

Flipper

October 8th, 2012
6:49 pm

Oh, and I bet he didn’t have the dollar either. A day late, and a dollar short.

fuzzybee78

October 8th, 2012
6:50 pm

1) Our biggest problem is recruiting and curriculum is part of that problem, I’m ok with “broader” but not dumber. If we dont start producing grads who work in GA we will never fill BDS. Sidewalk fans are Falcon and Hawks fans.
2) Some combination of Lance Thompson and Giff Smith will fix the rest of the recruiting problem. Thompson looks like head coach material. I dont think we can afford to let PJ go, but I am to the point I would support that if we could.
3) We need to be running a spread option like South Carolina. I can see Vad playing as well or better that Conner Shaw in that offense. He is not playing now because he cant run the TO. Change the offense and dont waste the talent.
4) We need to be a 4-3 D asap, recruit and coach um up.

GTJohn

October 8th, 2012
6:50 pm

Lance has already been at GT with O’Leary so why do you think he would or should come back?
Look at the D coord for USC – from Applacian State – now that is a defense!!!! People flying all over the place.
There are some more good ones out there – just have to look and get someone who can RECRUIT and relate / communicate to his players.
CPJ will support someone who will protect a lead after his offense has put up 35+ points.

Devils Advocate

October 8th, 2012
6:51 pm

Considering starting all over again on defense just brings to mind the inevitable time when we lose/fire CPJ eventually: we have four classes full of offensive players recruited to play a specific and fairly rare brand of offense and only a handful have potential/skill to excell in more traditional offenses.

WHO CARES!

October 8th, 2012
6:51 pm

Stein, if you’re that DUI lawyer, I want my money back.

Atlanta truth

October 8th, 2012
6:52 pm

Please —– the offense is HORRIBLE. The scheme of triple option is so 1988 and does NOT work today. Please retire the current (FOR NOW) coach and downgrade to FCS level. Relax and spread out honey …………. It’s ok, baby, it’s okay. Just relax and let it happen.

GT1990

October 8th, 2012
6:53 pm

PCJ thinking ahead, maybe this will buy him some extra time, until it is his time. With that offense it will be hard to attract some top talent (playmakers)!!!!

GTJohn

October 8th, 2012
6:53 pm

Fuzzy 78 , i like your thinking

we steal ruin this state

October 8th, 2012
6:53 pm

Now fire the offensive coordinator

mybulldawgs

October 8th, 2012
6:54 pm

Sounds like we need to follow suit in Athens …

Delbert D.

October 8th, 2012
6:55 pm

The poster is an obvious troll, and one who doesn’t know much. CalTech and MIT are private, and Georgia Tech is among the top public engineering schools in the world.

Devils Advocate

October 8th, 2012
6:55 pm

Now that McCamish is finished, may not be long before DRAD gets a better gig and not long after that before CPJ moves on. Re-starting the whole football program and shifting direction from
TO to the trendy offense of the day is not a pleasant thought.

GT1990

October 8th, 2012
6:56 pm

@Whocares did you read/hear about GT is the BEST investment (College) degree in the NATION! It sounds to me that you are still mad, about not being ACCEPTED!!!

fuzzybee78

October 8th, 2012
6:56 pm

thanks GT John!

ole yeller

October 8th, 2012
6:58 pm

@who cares posted at 6:46. That was perhaps the dumbest comment I have ever read on any blog. Congratulations you win the all time blue ribbon for stupid.

Rock_Eagle

October 8th, 2012
6:59 pm

Why would Thompson come back ? Ummm….cash. Why should he come back ? Atlanta is home for one. He’s been around Tech football since he was a kid. The place is home to him. I also happen to know he has never been partial to bulldawgs, which is always a plus. I’m sure it would take some doing to get him out of Tuscaloosa however.

fuzzybee78

October 8th, 2012
7:01 pm

We surely could slide to a spread option O with the players we have vs a pro set. With Vad at QB running an offense he is comfortable in this might have a chance to be good. Need to recruit more players to go with him and JT, but they would be good bait!

Buzz Kill

October 8th, 2012
7:05 pm

@ Chief — right on. Need Smith back. He was the architect of the recruiting class that included Nesbit, Dwyer, etc. He seems to land the home-grown GA kids.

Lord knows we need something.

...Take The Wheel

October 8th, 2012
7:05 pm

- Washington (aka Reggie Ball Jr) just sucks even though he has the most TD’s so far this year. It’s just his “It’s All About ME ATTITUDE”.

Puh-leez!! Even people who dont care for him knows that he is the absolute opposite of that! Just a good kid trying to win games. You never hear him talk about himself! Try again with that one…

WHO CARES!

October 8th, 2012
7:10 pm

I didn’t apply to Tech. It’s not attractive to me to spend your working life sitting in a cubicle counting widgets and not using your brain. You may make more money initially, but you don’t make your work interesting; you don’t have any imagination. What’s the difference between your work and those who are on an assembly line plucking chicken except that you are much too highly paid. Is that all you Tech people can harp upon! . Does having fulfilling work mean anything to you! And, Stein, I’m waiting for your answer.

Cobb Dawg

October 8th, 2012
7:12 pm

Ya hear that Grantham?

Rock_Eagle

October 8th, 2012
7:14 pm

Smith, a native of Mabelton, does know the state well. Personality-wise, he is very studious and serious. Thompson relates very well to today’s player’s and is loose as they come off the field. This guy could make a mint in sales, but he loves football. Either would be good and both have the energy. Both at the same time….a recruiting dream.

Rick James

October 8th, 2012
7:23 pm

@GTBob

Did you want to give up 40 points and 500 yards of offense against Boston College instead?
————————————————————————————————————————-
This firing doesnt mean it still wont happen Bob.While I understand that somebody had to be thrown under the bus part of the blame to go toward the caliber of talent that CPJ has recruited. Best of luck to them the rest of the season..

Delbert D.

October 8th, 2012
7:23 pm

” It’s not attractive to me to spend your working life sitting in a cubicle counting widgets and not using your brain.”

So get a job at the DMV, handling license and tag applications. They really need more employees; the lines are terrible. Fat chance of a government job in this economy, though. Try Goodwill Industries.

fuzzybee78

October 8th, 2012
7:24 pm

Rock_Eagle Im with you.

GTJohn

October 8th, 2012
7:25 pm

Hey WhoCares,
I went to tech – 2 degrees. I built high performing teams all over this country, represented companies all over the world and helped many achieve their success because helping pthers is how you become successful.
Now, back to FB. Anyone have aread on the players?

DDAWGS

October 8th, 2012
7:27 pm

Hopefully this will give UGA the courage to get a NEW OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR!!!!!

ole yeller

October 8th, 2012
7:29 pm

Think we could get Brooking to coach the line backers after his retirement this year? His experience and enthusiasm would bring a lot to the team. I would bet his name would help recruit a lot of defensive players.