Audition begins for interim Charles Kelly

When I talked to Georgia Tech interim defensive coordinator Charles Kelly in June for the “10 things” series (at that point he was still secondary coach), I asked him about his coaching aspirations. He said, not surprisingly, that he someday wanted to be a head coach.

However, moving up the ladder wasn’t something he dwelt on.

“I believe this,” he said. “I believe if you do as good a job at the job you have, people recognize it.”

For better or worse, in the wake of the firing of defensive coordinator Al Groh, Kelly has been recognizedt The timing or circumstances aren’t great, but Kelly, the lone assistant still on staff who preceded coach Paul Johnson, has his opportunity to show what he can do as the Jackets’ interim replacement for Groh.

“It’s a chance to move forward and see how we can do,” Johnson said Monday, in response to a question about if the final six games of the regular season are an audition for defensive coaches. “I think that we can play better than we’ve played. So we’ll see.”

If Kelly can produce results, you’d have to think he’ll be considered as the full-time replacement. Keeping him as coordinator would provide stability and give Johnson the security of a known commodity in the hire. Further, Kelly is known as an excellent recruiter. It’s a long list, but defensive back Jemea Thomas and A-back Orwin Smith are two players Kelly has helped bring to campus.

Finding bright spots on the defense this season isn’t easy, but the secondary has been one of the team’s better units over the past few seasons. Cornerbacks Rod Sweeting, Louis Young and Thomas were among the top players on the defense last season.

At Tech, he’s had a hand in getting Mario Butler, Jahi Word-Daniels and Jerrard Tarrant into NFL camps. (Butler made the Dallas Cowboys practice squad as an unsigned free agent and then made the active roster last December. He played in one game this season and is now back on the practice squad.)

Tech was second in the ACC in pass defense last season at 197.6 yards per game, although the Jackets were seventh in defensive pass efficiency. (I recognize that pass defense isn’t solely the responsibility of the secondary, and sussing out where the pass rush’s impact ends and the secondary’s coverage ability begins is not a black and white matter.)

Tech had one interception for every 27.5 passes last year – the secondary had 10 of the 14 interceptions – which was fourth in the ACC.

Prior to coming to Tech, he was at Nicholls State, an FCS school, from 2002 to 2005. He was defensive coordinator the last two seasons. For whatever it’s worth, Nicholls State was second in the Southland Conference in scoring defense and first in total defense in 2005. The team was third in third-down conversion percentage, 37.6 percent.

The Colonels were third in scoring defense and second in total defense in 2004. They were sixth (last) in third-down percentage (42.2 percent).

He and the rest of the coaching staff have a pretty big job this week, not only addressing mistakes that have tripped up the defense, but also trying to steer players distracted and upset by Groh’s firing in the same direction.

Personally speaking, I’ve found him to be earnest and hard-working. It’s also very obvious that he cares a lot about his players, and I’ve gotten the sense that the feeling is mutual. Those qualities should help him in his efforts to bring the defense together.

It’s not often that career turning points arrive on a schedule. Time will tell if that’s what this is for Kelly, 45. The son of a high school football coach, Kelly grew up in Alabama and knew from a young age that he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. It’s one reason why he walked on at Auburn, for the chance to play for Pat Dye. Kelly was struck by Dye’s work ethic, a lesson he no doubt is summoning this week.

“You’ve just got to persevere,” Kelly said. “There’s going to be some tough times, but you’ve just got to be level and get through them.”

181 comments Add your comment

Silly Mutts

October 9th, 2012
5:39 pm

Good luck Kelly!!! I am glad I’m not in your shoes but sure hope you can help get this thing turned around in a hurry!!!

GT Lee

October 9th, 2012
5:40 pm

I hope Mr Kelly gets it turned around. Go Jackets!!!!!!!!

TechApp fan

October 9th, 2012
5:42 pm

Hope he is Great.

I’m pulling for him to stop (not just slow) the slide.

Supersize that order, mutt

October 9th, 2012
5:50 pm

Good luck, coach Kelly !!!

Supersize that order, mutt

October 9th, 2012
5:51 pm

On a lighter note, has anybody seen superDawg on the blogs this week? He said he would come tailgate with us if USC beat UGA, and I need to find out if he’s going to live up to his end of the bargain, so I will have time to try to buy a crow for yeller bug to cook for him next week. LOL

AtWork

October 9th, 2012
5:51 pm

I hope Kelly does well. I would love to see Tech really change their coarse starting with BC next Saturday and continue through the rest of the season.

I don’t think Kelly will get the job unless the defense is night and day different from what Groh did and what Kelly does. Needs to start with tackling and 3rd down defense though. Not opposed to Kelly but if he gets the job the defense needs to be turned around and making huge plays the rest of the way. I’m talking like winning games where the other teams score just 14 or less points.

Go Jackets!

Jacket Detective

October 9th, 2012
5:58 pm

Sink or swim time for 2012 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
With the cancer removed, we’ll start a winning streak.
The MTSU disaster was due to a team demoralized by their D coordinator’s getting out-coached in the 4th qt again and again.
CPJ’s contract and support from the AD buy him some time.
O’Leary did not hire Freigen until he tired of mediocrity.
Or was the move forced on him like now?
3 D coordinator strikes and you’re out.

Jacket Detective

October 9th, 2012
6:00 pm

@Supersize.
Good one.
Dawg trolls a bit downbeat from their beatdown I think.

Jacket Detective

October 9th, 2012
6:03 pm

I just ran about 4 miles.
I’m starting to feel better about the season with Groh gone.
Endorphins or a realistic view of a defense about to finally be turned loose?
Maybe both.

Supersize that order, mutt

October 9th, 2012
6:03 pm

@ JD…..ya think? LOL

And, as CPJ always says...

October 9th, 2012
6:03 pm

…good teams don’t lose two games in a row, er, three games, er four games, er, nevermind…

old coach (but not as old as Supersize)

October 9th, 2012
6:05 pm

The irony of all the defense’s coaches problems is that teams put their best “athletes” on the defensive side of the ball!

The problem is that Kelly may do well...

October 9th, 2012
6:07 pm

…but the schedule just go infinitely easier the rest of the way so we will not be able to tell whether it is coaching or scheduling IF the team improves on the D side of the ball…

5150 UOAD

October 9th, 2012
6:08 pm

He seems to be a real nice guy and I hope he can get the guys to stay focused and get to laying good.

Mr. Magoo

October 9th, 2012
6:08 pm

Go JACKETS!!

THWG!!

Jacket Detective

October 9th, 2012
6:08 pm

@old coach.
That sure is not true anymore.
Look at the explosion in scoring these days.

5150 UOAD

October 9th, 2012
6:09 pm

When do you think our buddy will come to see us?

superDawg
September 26th, 2012
7:50 pm
ss you are a little man that likes to hide behind others.If sc beats UGA I will come down and tail gate with you and your brethren at tek.

Jacket Detective

October 9th, 2012
6:10 pm

The defense will be tested plenty.

Jacket Detective

October 9th, 2012
6:33 pm

Richt reminds me of Lucy.
Their fans get all excited by the high rankings of their recruiting classes just to wind up on their backs when Richt gets outcoached.
It’s really a lot crueler than anything I could do to dawg fans.
And to add insult to injury, Richt gets to be a multi multi millionaire without delivering the BSC NC his pay level requires.
All Adams cares about is for Richt not to embarrass him.

wt. king

October 9th, 2012
6:43 pm

as long as the AD dosnt give him a $2mil yr raise and extended contract too, we’re good.

chas_jacket

October 9th, 2012
6:45 pm

The defense needs to get a bit unpredictable – back side blitzes on 1st or 2nd can yield big plays but can also result in fumbles and knock the stuffing out of opposing QB’s, rattling them for the game. I liked Groh but the Defense was looking more and more lost as the season went on. CPJ gave him as much time as possible but the MTSU game was it. Couldn’t let him go right before Clemson, but with the bye week and BC coming up, it was the right time. Not sure why others are questioning the timing.

I like going with Kelly , he has been one of our stronger recruiters. We’ll see how the D responds.

joel

October 9th, 2012
6:52 pm

Just a thought. Frank Beamer was 22-32-1 ater his first 5 seasons at VT. Then went 2-8-1 in his sixth season. How many haed coaches would survive that today. But beginning with his 7th season his teams have won 9, 10, 0r 11 games a year till this year. Seems like if we give PJ another year or so, we might be building a solid program that might surprise us over then next 10 years or so. Just thinking …….

5150 UOAD

October 9th, 2012
6:58 pm

Jacket Detective

October 9th, 2012
7:01 pm

@joel.
Good point.
Was Beamer that bad his first 6 years?

Uh, joel...

October 9th, 2012
7:08 pm

…Beamer wasn’t making $2-$3mil back then, either – different world, different expectations, usually…

Dodd's Luck

October 9th, 2012
7:14 pm

Ken, thank you for you balanced reportage. For those of us seeking information, it is always nice to get facts and then options–not what you would have done–just what the options might be going forward. I don’t really care what other people think about what happened. Just let me know what happened and let me make up my own mind.

jacketnation deflation

October 9th, 2012
7:36 pm

Good luck Coach Kelly. Now can we please fire those chicken wire uniforms? Gold helmets, Gold, White, or the Navy Blue Jerseys. No more chicken wire patterns. No, it does not make you think of a yellow jackets nest.

Dit

October 9th, 2012
7:46 pm

throw away the brown pants and get gold pants and start looking and playing like Tech

JimmyB

October 9th, 2012
8:08 pm

Can Johnson just admit that his pride, which kept him from keeping the defensive coordinator before Groh, is what has damaged the team the most these past few years. Where is he coaching these days and what would it take to get him back and let Paul run the O only?

Gr8 2B aFuzzyB

October 9th, 2012
8:24 pm

Good luck to Kelly. Anything less than 3-3 over the last six would be even more of a disaster. Gotta have BC, Md and Duke. Of course beat the Dwags and DRad might just give Johnson another raise and contract extension.

Defense

October 9th, 2012
8:35 pm

I hope they use the 4-3 a lot more. Turn one of the linebackers loose every other play and just disrupt everything. Sometimes use a 3-4 and just before the snap use a 5-2-4 to rush the QB/RB. The DB’s can hold there own, just cant do it all day while the QB just sits there.

GT GRAD

October 9th, 2012
9:12 pm

Good Luck to Al Groh. He is a upstanding and high character person.

Good luck to Charles Kelly……….I sincerely hope he has so much success that GT decides to hire him as the permanent DC!! I hope he decides to play an aggressive style with a lot of blitz packages (I personally like this approach as a fan) OR if I am completely wrong: whatever scheme works best based on the players we have on the team…………….my guess is he knows the best approach.

Players (current & future) should love playing for this Coach Kelly!

lindseysnot

October 9th, 2012
9:23 pm

Ken….thank you for the insight that you have shared with us, your readers and GT fans – this was one of your best articles that I remember reading…you have given me some hope (in Coach Kelly) and fired me up…
GO YOU HAIRY BEEES!

1 4 GT

October 9th, 2012
9:33 pm

UHHHHH….I think you meant “fuzzy”, not hairy

Lexjacket

October 9th, 2012
9:40 pm

Ken, one of the best things to ever happen to Georgia Tech is having you as our reporter. You do a really great job of being personal, intuitive and focusing on things that really matter. I just want you to know I and many other Georgia Tech fans how much we appreciate your work. Your reporting is reminiscent of Furman Bisher. Thank You.

crackbaby

October 9th, 2012
9:46 pm

Charles Kelly for President!

…sorry, got a little carried away there. Thanks for the background on Coach Kelly, Ken. Interesting that he’s already been a D-coordinator.

All this 3-4 diatribe is overblown. Most 3-4 teams run with 4 on the line at least 35% of the time. Last night, Wade Philips showed 5-2 against the Jets all night long. Granted he has some amazing talent in Houston.

Full Metal Jacket

October 9th, 2012
9:50 pm

Ditto Lexjacket, Ken. It’s great to get consistent and thoughtful updates on Tech topics, something we have not always had in the past. As for Coach Kelly, I hope he is able to get some of our obviously talented players on defense to play up to or above their potential. If he does, he would have to be given some consideration for the permanent DC job. It is my personal opinion that we need a proven coordinator for the job, but if Kelly can dramatically turn around the defense and the fortunes of this team, that may be proof enough.

Full Metal Jacket

October 9th, 2012
9:52 pm

3-4, 4-3, Tampa 2, 5 in the box……actually the only numbers I am interested in is turning our 2-4 season into an 8-4 or at least 7-5 season.

Gr8 2B aFuzzyB

October 9th, 2012
10:01 pm

@FMJ, that sounds like wishful thinking my friend. Hopefully we beat BC and start getting back on track but at this point, I’m wishing more for an upset of the Dwags more than any other salvation of the season.

Full Metal Jacket

October 9th, 2012
10:02 pm

BC is a great opponent for the defense to get well against. FSU will probably soften them up a little bit this week, and even though BC did have to prepare for Army’s option earlier this season, the offense should be able to score on them handily. Coach Kelly, best of luck and I hope you can make the most of your opportunity….for your sake and ours! Go Jackets!

lxUn1c0

October 9th, 2012
10:07 pm

JimmyB, are you talking about Dave Wommack? Because he wasn’t very good. Only marginally better than Groh. CPJ should have retained Tenuta when he first got here.

Full Metal Jacket

October 9th, 2012
10:07 pm

I admit that even 7-5 is atypically optimistic for me. I’m half hoping/half guessing that if Kelly turns the D around we can squeeze wins out of BC, the Terps, the Heels, and even the resurgent Dukies. I’ve seen BYU several times this season on TV and they look really inconsistent but their big lines will give us trouble. Of course, I am ever hopeful for a win in Athens, and depending on the way they respond to the Chicken-Whipping they got last week an upset might not be out of the question…..though it would still be a HUGE upset, as they outmatch us at virtually every position.

The Necormancer

October 9th, 2012
10:08 pm

Jacket Detective
October 9th, 2012
5:58 pm

O’Leary did not hire Freigen until he tired of mediocrity.

I think you raised your heart rate too high. O”Leary never fired Friedgen. The Fridge left to coach the Terps.

The Necormancer

October 9th, 2012
10:09 pm

Busted play, I read fire not hire.

Full Metal Jacket

October 9th, 2012
10:11 pm

Tenuta had a chance to stay on with CPJ as I recall, but he didn’t take it after not getting the HC job himself. (I certainly don’t blame him.) Knowing CPJ and most head coaches, it might not have been a good move to keep on the DC anyway….too much of a potential professional rival/successor if things go badly. Tenuta did not do very well at Notre Dame but seems to be doing well at NC State so far as a position coach. He might not have the temperament for an HC position.

Delbert D.

October 9th, 2012
10:13 pm

Wade Phillips’ father invented that version of the 3-4. That 1-gap is the version that Georgia has run with some success under Grantham. Not so much in their “year 3,” though. Somehow they’ve managed to make an All-American linebacker disappear.

Full Metal Jacket

October 9th, 2012
10:18 pm

Wommack was a sound coach, and is currently HC at Arkansas State, I think. He was certainly competent but I don’t blame CPJ for trying to do better. I am one of those who thinks CPJ might be a better OC than HC, but I can’t blame him for firing either Wommack or Groh if their defenses aren’t living up to his expectations. (They certainly haven’t been living up to our expectations either.) It is true that as HC, CPJ had better make the right move this time. Another 2-3 years of mediocre defense (and thus, less than spectacular records) will definitely put him on the hot seat. Make a good hire, Coach Johnson, and beat UGA!!!!!

lxUn1c0

October 9th, 2012
10:20 pm

FMJ, I’m hoping that both Tenuta and CPJ have both had enough humble pie at this point to be able to come together. I’d love to get that defense back.

5150 UOAD

October 9th, 2012
10:23 pm

Tenuta…………..is not ever coming to TECH and was not going to stay when he didn’t get the HC job.

5150 UOAD

October 9th, 2012
10:25 pm

Tenuta…. will be a coach at Tech as soon as Friedgen is hired as a QB coach at UGa.