More from Johnson on Groh

Some notes from Paul Johnson’s news conference regarding the dismissal of defensive coordinator Al Groh:

1. On Groh: “Nobody worked harder than Al. Nobody put in more time and I certainly appreciate everything he did while he was here.”

2. Johnson said he arrived at his decision Monday morning after taking time to mull it over and watch game video. He saw errors in communication and alignment that kept repeating themselves. As he said multiple times, Groh’s game plans were sound and he didn’t lack for knowledge. Rather, the communication of his plan wasn’t getting onto the field, in Johnson’s opinion.

3. Johnson’s involvement will be setting parameters and framework and from there will be provided as necessary. As is his wont, he said he prefers to give the assistants the leeway to do what they feel is best. One parameter he’ll stress is to keep the defense simple enough to be played without error.

“Certainly, we want to be multiple enough that we can play, but we want to be sound,” Johnson said. “I don’t want to come in Monday and have 40 missed assignments. It’s not going to do you any good.”

3. The scheme won’t completely change, although he said the line won’t play as much “two-gap” as it had, although the defense had been doing less of that. (In a two-gap scheme, linemen line up directly across from an offensive linemen and is responsible for the gap on either side of the offensive lineman. The idea is to “build a wall,” a phrase Groh often used, to force running backs to run laterally.)

In a one-gap scheme, a lineman sets up between two offensive linemen and is responsible for that one gap. It typically requires more players to commit to run-stopping, since the linemen are responsible for one gap each instead of two, but Tech’s personnel is probably better suited for it.

That said, Johnson has never been married to one defensive scheme or another.

“I don’t think you’ve got to trick people,” he said. “I think you line up and know what you’re doing and play fast.”

4. Johnson said the decision was based on a body of work and his conclusion that the problems weren’t going to go away. He acknowledged that Tech’s issues go beyond defense, but he felt the defense’s problems could be addressed with a change.

“It’s a chance to move forward and see how we can do,” he said. “I think that we can play better than we’ve played. So we’ll see.”

5. Johnson on player reaction: “I’m sure that you have mixed emotions. I’m sure that a lot of the players are disappointed. I’m sure Coach Groh was very well-liked. They also understand that we haven’t played as well as we’ve needed. … They’re fairly resilient. You’ll know in a week or two what their reaction is, I guess.”

6. Johnson said the defense will practice at a higher tempo moving forward with more live-hitting and full-speed drills. He acknowledged it being philosophically different from Groh.

“It’s not like we didn’t tackle in practice, but the pace of practice is a little bit different than what it will be,” he said.

He wants the team to spend more time on tackling and pursuit, “some of those things that we haven’t been as good at.”

7. Johnson said he was encouraged by the team’s play in the first couple games of the season, but “it became apparent that it was short-lived.” Notably, the third-down defense was worse despite attempts to address it long before the season began. Tech’s defensive conversion rate was 42.4 percent last year and is now 47.8 percent and 67.4 percent in the past three games.

“There was some recurring themes that we weren’t getting better,” he said.

8. Johnson said he didn’t think Groh’s firing will impact recruiting. He said he planned to call committed defensive players that night, which he evidently did. Michael Carvell has a post with reaction from Tech commits, including Darius Commissiong, a defensive tackle from Maryland who called Groh “like a father figure.”

9. Johnson on the difficulty of the decision: “It’s really disappointing and frustrating. You never want to do these things. You never want to have to, but to me, that’s part of being a leader. Sometimes you have to do hard things. I have a great deal of respect for Al. He’s, in my mind, had a very good career and may still coach. I don’t know what his future holds, but it just wasn’t working here. It doesn’t mean that it won’t work the next place or whatever, but it just wasn’t working right now.”

10. Johnson on the talent level: “I’m not sold that we don’t have good players. I’m confident in our players’ abilities. We’ll see.”

11. On possible replacements: “There’ll be plenty of time to worry about that and to evaluate that as the next six games play out.”

12. Johnson said he was hopeful that giving the remaining defensive coaches more responsibility will energize them. He said that Groh’s philosophy was that he often coached the defense as a whole, giving the position coaches less responsibility.

Johnson’s plan is to have players spend more time with their position groups.

Meeting with the entire offensive unit, he said, “I can’t get into the details and into the weeds like if I only met with the quarterbacks. I can get way more in-depth with them or way more in-depth with the receivers if I’ve just got the receivers in there because they don’t have to worry about what the offensive line’s looking at or doing. It’s just a different philosophy.”

Thanks for reading.

Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog

111 comments Add your comment

juvenal

October 9th, 2012
10:14 am

tougher practices would help….

George Stein

October 9th, 2012
10:21 am

Do you think talent was an issue or the issue, Ken?

To the extent that communication was/is a problem, Johnson said similar things while Wommack was here. I wonder why that’s a recurring theme.

IronJacket

October 9th, 2012
10:21 am

Ken,

Any names getting thrown around as whom might be of interest as the next DC?

juvenal

October 9th, 2012
10:28 am

Al must have had some part of recruiting the defense,,,,,how much time was he on the road? doubt Herb Brooks was much liked, or Erk…….

SuperJacket

October 9th, 2012
10:32 am

Not sure about this move. Having spoken to the players, we have some real beasts–Kallon, Gamble–that would not only be able to play 2-gap, but are also legit NFL prospects with the intelligence to understand in-game adjustments. With a solid front three, we are looking at a completely different defensive unit with versatile linebackers and an experienced secondary. We have to play those games, but experience would suggest that we are 1 year away from being pretty good. I just hope the next guy remembers that Groh is giving him a pretty good base and a pipeline which we’ve never seen at Tech–at least on the defensive side. We’ll miss you coach Groh! You are a better man than most will ever know.

GT Joe

October 9th, 2012
10:49 am

Ken, did he fire Tevin?

FL Jacket

October 9th, 2012
10:51 am

I think the discussion of 1-gap or 2-gap schemes is completely overblown. Wherever you line up, you have to shed blocks and make tackles…PERIOD. Virginia Tech beat us because they didn’t allow themselves (especially on the perimeter) to be blocked.

From my vantage point, it seemed Al Groh focused on the philosophical a little too much at the detriment of the fundamental. He asked his players to do too much “thinking” and not enough “reacting”.

Wal-Mart Retards

October 9th, 2012
10:51 am

I agree with Tevin. GT Joe’s got to go!

FL Jacket

October 9th, 2012
10:53 am

“Ken, did he fire Tevin?”

It’s tough to fire a kid who’s completing 63% of his passes and achieving a higher YPC than Josh Nesbitt.

FL Jacket

October 9th, 2012
10:54 am

Wal-Mart…

I think we need to call him “GT Groh”…not GT Joe

Wal-Mart Retards

October 9th, 2012
10:55 am

Amen to that, brother.

yeller bug

October 9th, 2012
11:04 am

I was surprised to see a change in mid-season, but the great multitude (not that Tech has a great mulitude, but figure of speech) were calling off with his head. Paying coaches big money dictate faster reaction and results. Bottom Line is that it wasn’t getting done on the field.

It would be an interesting stat to see the yards per play given up on 1st & 2nd down as compared to 3rd down. I think Ken pointed out that the conversion rate was higher for teams with more than 7 yds to go than less. What were we doing differently that made us so inept on 3rd down?

The two-gap comment acknowledges that we do not have the horses on the D line as to run that means your D line must consistently beat his opponent mano-a-mano.

Maybe the shock of this move will get our team out of their funk. Still have 6 or 7 games left to play. We have a shot to win them all.

Jacket Detective

October 9th, 2012
11:06 am

He got rid of Groh but it does not seem he realizes he made a bad decision to hire him.
I’m curious if he looked around any after he fired Wommack or took the short cut and hired the guy hanging around who would come cheap since Virginia was stuck paying Groh over a million a year for two years.

Jacket Detective

October 9th, 2012
11:08 am

Al Groh was a modern day Trojan horse.
Left at the gate until brought in to destroy our football program.
Virginia fans must be delighted they got something for their millions.

Jacket Detective

October 9th, 2012
11:10 am

Here is the real reason for the firing.
I’ll attend the BC game but I would not have if Groh remained.
And if I’m thinking like that, so are many other fans as well.

yeller bug

October 9th, 2012
11:14 am

Agree with your second point FL Jacket. I made an analogy last week that Groh was like Hewitt in B-ball—Hewitt would analyze to details such as forcing opponents clockwise around screens so they’d have to pivot against their body to shoot, meanwhile no one was blocking out and the team couldn’t even inbound the ball. Groh has great depth of knowledge but it appeared he focused on the subtleties meanwhile his players didn’t know who to cover in pass defense. You could see the confusion with the players, thus CPJ’s comment of lack of communication and a need to simplify things.

Hope it works out for the best for GT and for Al Groh.

Jacket Detective

October 9th, 2012
11:17 am

I’ve gone a little overboard today with my Trojan Horse analogy but I’m hoping one of my Tech English profs from decades ago will read them and upgrade their opinion of me.
No?
Durn.

mulk

October 9th, 2012
11:24 am

Superjacket,

Beasts? What pipeline? What base?

Jacket Detective

October 9th, 2012
11:28 am

I do not care at all what happens to Groh.
I’m always hearing from Republican friends about how terrible our creeping socialism is.
Well why do we have a system for fired coaches that enables as bad a welfare program – millions to do nothing – as anything the government does?
BTW, I was a Dem for twenty years, a Republican for about that and now am disgusted with both.

Jacket Detective

October 9th, 2012
11:29 am

What will be the effect of the firing?
Tech fans like me will make plans to attend instead of staying home.

juvenal

October 9th, 2012
11:34 am

Superjacket, even uga can,t get NTs to play 3-4-what NT beast you mean?

Ken Sugiura

October 9th, 2012
11:37 am

George – I think talent is always an issue. That said, I don’t think the talent level is such that it should be giving up 600 yards twice in three games.
SuperJacket, you could be right. time will tell on the timing. Even if he hadn’t been fired Monday, though, it would have been hard to envision him making it past the end of the season unless things completely reversed themselves, which Johnson (and many others) concluded wasn’t going to happen.
And even if Kallon and Gamble are as good as advertised, you might be in a situation of waiting a couple years for a return. Something else to consider is that this year was also advertised as the year things would shape up.
Jacket Detective – I have to think Johnson is smart enough to realize the mistake. No one asked him, but I imagine if he were asked, “If you could go back in time, would you make the same hire?” i tend to think he’d say no.

GT Alum '83

October 9th, 2012
11:41 am

As usual, good reporting Ken. Thanks. As talented as I’ve been hearing Groh is, for years I’ve kept hearing how Tech needs to simplify the defense for the players. I’ve kept on wondering how simple do we have to make it? Either Groh’s ideas are too complex or these kids are too dumb, or both, but regardless…as CPJ noted… Groh’s schemes are not making it onto the field. I like yeller bug’s comparison to Hewitt.

ahsoisee

October 9th, 2012
11:45 am

It is not the recruiting, it is the coaching of the recruits. Use the talent you have to their best ability in a systen that utilizes their strengths and talents. Do not try to force a square peg into a round hole.

Rodney Kent

GTNashvegas

October 9th, 2012
11:58 am

CPJ needs to go. It’s not working.

Dacusville Bill

October 9th, 2012
12:01 pm

Fire Pitiful Paul before somebody beside the Tech Program gets hurt–Would like to buy him for what he is worth and sell him for what HE THINKS he is worth

Supersize that order, mutt

October 9th, 2012
12:01 pm

@ GTNashvegas…..what exactly isn’t working? Well, duhhh, the defense wasn’t working, but the offense, for the most part, sure is. If not for the defense, Tech would probably be undefeated right now. Can you tell me a game so far this season where the offense didn’t perform? Can you tell me a game so far this season, other than the Presbyterian game, where the defense DID perform?

Supersize that order, mutt

October 9th, 2012
12:02 pm

Same comment to you, Dacusville Bill. You are both FOS

Supersize that order, mutt

October 9th, 2012
12:03 pm

@ Ken…..great reporting. I could hear you asking questions at the press conference yesterday……at least I THINK I recognized your voice. Thanks for some really great objective coverage of the Jackets. All of us regular bloggers appreciate all that you do.

GT Fan

October 9th, 2012
12:08 pm

GT’s horrible 3rd down D in a nutshell:
After Shawn Green’s INT, and GT’s subsequent 4th down failure at the Clemson 7 yd line…..
1st down … 1 yd gain
2nd down … 2 yd gain
3rd down & SEVEN (7)….37 yd gain!
1st down … 13 yd gain
1st down … Sack, 4 yd loss
2nd down … 4 yd gain
3rd down & TEN (10) ….23 yd gain!
1st down … 2 yd gain
2nd down …. Sack, 5 yd loss
3rd down & THIRTEEN (13)….15 yd gain!
It’s now 1st & goal at GT’s 5 … The D holds on 3rd down this time, but too late. Clemson kicks FG
Baffling how the D played so well on 1st & 2nd downs on that drive then totally disappeared on 3rd downs??

Supersize that order, mutt

October 9th, 2012
12:11 pm

@ GT Fan…..the sad thing is that is not unique to Groh’s defenses; it has been going on for years. I have long sat in the stands and prayed that we would not be put in a 3rd and long situation, because I knew we would not cover it. That happened even under Tenuta.

Jmonty

October 9th, 2012
12:13 pm

Good job on reporting. I think Groh was horrible. Talent or not… He didn’t know how to utilize what he had. Not blitzing. Not disguising the blitzes, the rare times he did. He coached scared and the players played that way. I was NEVER a Groh fan. He was a loser at UVA and he is still a loser. He will always be a loser. CPJ was 100% correct in cutting bat and running. The bye week will give time for the “D” to adjust. On a side note: Ken… If CPJ needs a good DC have him contact me. I guarantee I will do much better than Groh… “no show” needed to go. Maybe… just maybe we can win some games and get in a bowl.

Jmonty

October 9th, 2012
12:17 pm

@ GT Fan…. Yep… When you don’t play the 3-4 “D” like it should… That happens. Tough pill to swallow. But it’s true… The 3-4 is all about gap assignments. A little smoke and mirrors to confuse the QB. But, gap assignments are the key to it. “no show” acted like he didn’t even know what gap assignment was. Either he didn’t teach it…or the players didn’t listen. I am going with the fact it wasn’t taught.

Augusta Jacket

October 9th, 2012
12:18 pm

GT is 1st in the nation in rushing, 11th in total yards and 16th in scoring offense. PJ and Tevin are not the problem. Defense is. That said, with this season shot, I’d like to see Vad get prepped for next year.

1 4 GT

October 9th, 2012
12:19 pm

You Falcons fans will remember this. HC Dan Henning & his “H” back offense? Even the best of the best of his square pegs couldn’t be forced into his round holes. <His offense didn’t fit their talents. I don’t recall any other team giving him a shot at being HC. Don’t recall his “H” back offense ever having much success in the NFL for that matter.

GT Fan

October 9th, 2012
12:20 pm

Supersize …. The D pretty much dominated UVA too.
I think that’s what still has me so confused about the total implosion of the D in the past 3 weeks.

Since being held to 297 yds by GT, UVA’s O has put up 353 yds (@TCU), 625 yds (La Tech), and 461 yds (@Duke)

btgt69

October 9th, 2012
12:24 pm

just beat uga

Augusta Jacket

October 9th, 2012
12:25 pm

btgt69

October 9th, 2012
12:25 pm

uga just announced the acquisition of a new athletic dorm: Clarke County Jail

GT Fan

October 9th, 2012
12:26 pm

Remember Tenuta too, SS. Thought he blitzed too much, leaving his DBs on their own “1-on-1 islands” …. When teams were handling his blitzs, QBs (See Matt Ryan AT BDS, passing for 435yds) were torching GT for big gains.

Yes, I agree the 3rd down D failures have been happening throughout PJ’s tenure. I’ve pointed that out plenty of times to the folks that sat around me at games. It realy is mind-boggling how bad 3rd down D has been.

Tokyo jacket

October 9th, 2012
12:26 pm

@ Supersize – they played pretty darn well against UVA.

Jmonty

October 9th, 2012
12:28 pm

Groh was a bad hire on CPJ’s behalf. The “D” was almost always not aligned properly. The gap assignments were not even close to right. Any coach that runs the 3-4 knows the basics of the defense is gap assignments. When those assignments aren’t taught or followed it leaves huge holes in the defense. This was very evident is the Miami, MTSU and the Clemson game. I understand missed tackles and such. However; when players are running around in chaos, where does the blame lie? Has to be the coach. Again… I NEVER have like Groh. He may think he knows what he’s doing… But he doesn’t. He can talk a good game… but can’t play it. Maybe he was good on Madden football or something… But as a coach?? He sucks.

SuperJacket

October 9th, 2012
12:30 pm

Jacket Detective–Groh was hired because he handily beat Johnson in the early years when GT was dominating and no-one seemed to have a clue. I don’t think I’ve seen a coach ‘out-coach’ Johnson, but Groh came the closest to it. In reference to the other questions, the linebackers we have are in the upper echelon of the ACC, Harrell, the kid from Florida and the middle linebacker from NC could all be playing on any number of teams. We have a sick collection of athletes from Milton and Noble to the old QB from Monroe–again a team strength. The pipeline is in the Northeast, where kids can handle the workload of Tech, are usually academically adept and where the culture is for kids to go out of state for college. GT has a lot to appeal to these kids, our name there is almost as good as in FL, where they think all GT grads are rocket scientists. The beasts are Kallon and Gamble. Kallon, if he keeps developing, has a shot to be a special player. And contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a NFL caliber NT. You just need someone who can contain both A-gaps and not necessarily get squeezed. He also needs some lateral quickness, which teams have recently figured out we don’t have. I believe Gotsis could be this guy, and I’m willing to bet beaucoup bucks him, Kallon and Gamble are going to be the 3 that get us heading back in the right direction. A little too late for Groh though.

1 4 GT

October 9th, 2012
12:32 pm

Y’all are misplacing your sympathies for Groh. The defensive guys are the ones feeling all out of sorts. They lost a mentor that a lot of them looked up to. A councilor and advisor & friend. They are young & will bounce back, but for now a great many of them are in a state of mild shock & feeling responsible for this. Groh is a “fully” grown up man & should ride off into the sunset & enjoy retirement. Offensive guys to a much lesser extent.

GT Fan

October 9th, 2012
12:40 pm

Clemson was 7 for 9 on 3rd downs in the 2nd half. 6 of the 7 converts were 7 yds are longer:

Jmonty

October 9th, 2012
12:43 pm

The players will be better without Groh. Sorry… I felt sorry for the players for having to be coached by him. You can get advise from a drug dealer… but it doesn’t mean it the right source. The players will be better for him leaving. GT needs a strong and creative DC… One that can utilize the players talents. Groh did not do that very well. Need a DC that can put some fire back into the players. Again. Groh didn’t do that very well. I think if the players believe in the system they will do better. I’m not sold that they beleived in Groh. They played way too timid..

GT Fan

October 9th, 2012
12:45 pm

SuperJacket … Groh was 1-1 vs. Johnson before PJ hired him as DC.
2008 UVA 24-17 in ATL
2009 GT 34-9 @ UVA … broke some long losing streak by GT teams @ UVA.

GT had a few 3rd failures plus TWO killer fumbles in the 3rd qtr that were big factors in UVA’s 2008 W.
Please explain, again, how AG dominated PJ ….

GT Fan

October 9th, 2012
12:45 pm

3rd down failures …

ToeMeetsLeather

October 9th, 2012
12:49 pm

Ken, do you think you would ever be able to get Groh to comment on the lack of the D ever seeing a decent pro style offensive set in the spring, fall camp or scout team sessions during the season, to practice against? Would love to hear him honestly say if he thinks it hurts the D’s preparation.

TeknocratNOTdemokrat

October 9th, 2012
12:53 pm

FL Jacket wrote:
“From my vantage point, it seemed Al Groh focused on the philosophical a little too much at the detriment of the fundamental. He asked his players to do too much “thinking” and not enough “reacting”.”

Amen – thinking TOO much keeps one from reacting to what he knows he should do…too many ‘what ifs’ rolling around in the brain pan. Just STOP the guy.

Certainly know though, that I did NOT dislike the guy – if the players liked him as much as they say, then he related to them in a good way…it just didn’t translate to action on the field.