Tech players had trust in Groh

The fondness that Georgia Tech cornerback Louis Young has for former coordinator Al Groh was obvious. I spoke with Young for a story about Groh that, as you might guess, didn’t get past the reporting stage as the play of the Yellow Jackets defense resulted in his firing Monday.

Young was recruited to Tech by Groh, who had been following Young’s progress since he was a sophomore at Good Counsel in Olney, Md., and Groh was still coach at Virginia. Groh had been recruiting both Young and outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu to Virginia before he was fired at the end of the 2009 season. After Groh was hired at Tech in Jan. 2010, both ended up at Tech.

“Honest man,” Young said. “Heck of a coach. He just had everything I wanted in a coach, the closest thing to a professional defensive coach from his history and background. That was the main thing.”

Young said Groh “is like a father figure to me,” someone whom he found to be straightforward and lacking deceit.

“He’s himself,” Young said. “He’s not going to change for anybody. That’s one of the main things I respect about him.”

When Groh wasn’t around, Young said, he referred to him affectionately as “Pops.” Groh found a way to connect with players, showing care for them as people, delivering his wry sense of humor and wowing them with his football acumen.

Former linebacker and 2011 team captain Steven Sylvester had similar thoughts of Groh when I talked with him Monday – brilliant football mind, good guy.

“You could just go sit down in his office and talk to him,” he said. “He may be listening to Jay-Z or Young Jeezy, something like that.”

Sylvester had fond memories of being in the film room with Groh and the defense.

“There were countless film sessions where he would stop the film in the middle of the session, he’d say, ‘O.K., give me 11 guys. Stand up right now,’” Sylvester said.

Groh would line them up in the opposing team’s offense and explain how he wanted Tech to react to various alignments or motions.

“He could break it down,” Sylvester said. “It was just a different thing that I’d never seen before.”

The problem, of course, is that his efforts often failed to bring results. Communication and alignment problems hampered the defense throughout Groh’s tenure.

“Maybe simplifying things could be the answer, maybe not,” Sylvester said. “I guess we’re getting ready to figure it out real quick.”

Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog

42 comments Add your comment


October 9th, 2012
11:50 am

FL Jacket

October 9th, 2012
11:58 am

Unfortunately the kids have to learn the hard way, you have to TCB.

Augusta Jacket

October 9th, 2012
12:06 pm

Hopefully this move sparks the defense. At least we’ve got the bye week to sort things out.


October 9th, 2012
12:07 pm

You got all those players that weren’t involved in that Middle Tenn. meltdown. I would like to hear some of them explain what happened.


October 9th, 2012
12:39 pm

Pops apparently couldn’t translate his genius to the real world of CFB. He’ll get work if he wants it. Heye, the dwags need a defensive mind about right now (C;

GT Alum '83

October 9th, 2012
12:42 pm

I’ve heard the “simplifying things” excuse for years now. How simple did he have to make it? Everyone seems to think he was a defensive genius. Why was his brilliance not showing up on the field? I can understand the first…maybe second… year transition to a 3-4 scheme but to still hear the “we need to simplify things” excuse after this long is very frustrating.


October 9th, 2012
12:43 pm

Crimson 75′ List is good

Tech fans, here’s the best options to replace Groh:
1. Jeremy Pruitt
2. Lance Thompson
3. Bo Davis
4. Brick Haley
5. Torrian Gray
6. John Neal
7. Mike Tressel
8. Luke Fickell
9. Bob Gregory
10. Mike Vrabel

I like all those names but I would like to add Chris Rumph to the top of this list..
Lance Thompson served under Tech 1990

1 4 GT

October 9th, 2012
12:43 pm

These are the men that are affected most by this firing. They are in a state of wondering what’s going on & am I responsible for this? They will be feeling some turmoil the next few days. I trust CPJ to handle this in the right way. They are all my horses, if none of them ever win the race. GOOOOO JACKETS THWGeorgie

GT Fan

October 9th, 2012
12:53 pm

To Young & Sylvester …
Can “Pops” juggle too?

Flamboyant Defense

October 9th, 2012
1:01 pm

Enter your comments here

Flamboyant Defense

October 9th, 2012
1:03 pm

From 9-4 and 11-3
to 6-7, 8-5, and 2-4.

Thanks AL.


October 9th, 2012
1:03 pm

I have been at every game last year and this year. The defense always looked confused at what the opponents were running. Take Clemson for example. Deandre T. of Clemson has been a thorn every week for any team that faced him. On several plays I saw that kid wide open with no one near him. Saw one play where a Tech defender had him covered but decided to leave him because the QB was scrambling. To me this shows a fundamental flaw in the defensive philosphy. At least double team the known playmakers. The Tech players never knew where to line up. How can opponents run the same plays over and over and we never have a chance to be even close to stopping the samed plays. I see athletic ability being an issue..but to not be lined up correclty at the snap of the ball has been a major problem this year. Kids are confused.

5150 UOAD

October 9th, 2012
1:04 pm

I hate losing a coach and especially during the middle of the season but things were not working and the BYE week is the best time during a season I guess if it has to happen.


October 9th, 2012
2:01 pm

it’s in the past, Ken-time to move on…….

Jacket Detective

October 9th, 2012
2:59 pm

How touching.
If they loved their coach, they sure didn’t play like it.
Or maybe they have not figured out from their young years that he was getting out-coached every week.
The MTSU meltdown either happened because we are a team of one and two stars or Groh demoralized the defense.
I think the later but we’ll soon know now that Groh is gone.

Jacket Detective

October 9th, 2012
3:03 pm

BTW Virginia, Al’s alma mater, finally got something for the millions they had to pay him after his firing.
He came here and wrecked us too.
There was a doctor nicknamed HODAD.
Great bedside manner and one of the most charming doctors of all time.
Terrible surgeon though.
The letters of the nickname stand for Hands of Death and Destruction.
His patients never blamed him because his rep was so great, they though they were just unlucky when the operation did not go well.
Source: the WSJ.


October 9th, 2012
3:05 pm

CPJ needs to hire Chan back to get him some good recruits.

Jacket Detective

October 9th, 2012
3:08 pm

This is getting old but Chan had one good, not great, year and that was it. The four prior years were terrible.
There are some good players on this defense and we will see that by much improved play by the defense or I will come on this blog and admit we are a team of one and two stars.
Prove me right guys.

Jacket Detective

October 9th, 2012
3:15 pm

This is sink or swim time for the team.
I think they’ll swim.

Way To Go

October 9th, 2012
3:33 pm

I wonder what happens now? Do you have to bring in a 3-4 guy that you’ve been recruiting and coaching (sort of) or go back to a 4-3?

Freddie Blassie

October 9th, 2012
3:57 pm

Best of luck and fortune to Al Groh. He is an excellent coach and a good guy. Sometimes things just do not work out.
Johnson is a helluva coach and Georgia Tech will be fine this year. We’ll beat Georgie this year.


October 9th, 2012
4:09 pm

I had classes with Lance when he was a grad assistant, good guy, energetic, intense.

yeller bug

October 9th, 2012
4:21 pm

@Jacket Detective: HODAD sounds like our POTUS.

It seems that Groh was a good human being and mentor to the players and no one likes to fire someone or be fired, but this is the right move. The D was never great but the promise was it would be in year 3. If we were like last year, nothing would have happened, but we’ve gone backwards in a bad way. One of the goals at the start of the year was to get stops on 3rd down and we’re ranked what 109th? The team needed to go in a different direction and as CPJ stated, I’m not giving up on this year. Gotta like that.

Best of luck to all parties—we’ve got another 6 games (potentially 7) so let’s get after it. A sweep will remove the bitter taste in our mouths now and be a great setup for next year.


October 9th, 2012
4:22 pm

I am not sure our personnel isn’t better suited to a base 4-3 anyway. It will be much easier to go to a 4-3 than it was to go to a 3-4.

Supersize that order, mutt

October 9th, 2012
5:46 pm

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

1 4 GT

October 9th, 2012
6:08 pm

Now, now. I’m surprise at you SS….HAHAHA

1 4 GT

October 9th, 2012
6:46 pm

SS….humble pie might go down easier than crow. LOL

Supersize that order, mutt

October 9th, 2012
6:48 pm

@ 1 4 GT……who cares how easy it goes down? LOL

yeller bug

October 9th, 2012
7:00 pm

I can cook either….both go well with bitter herbs and hot sauce. : )

yellow britches

October 9th, 2012
7:24 pm

I’m booking my trip to the Poinsettia Bowl right now.


October 9th, 2012
7:41 pm

It’s obvious the accelerated and dynamic CFB of today has passed-by CAG. Perhaps his intricate scheming and combos would still work in NFL camps w/ pros, but as the old adage goes – you’ve got to know your audience.

He was well intentioned but ineffective on the Flats. His successor has the advantage of knowing what DOESN’T work on Game Day.

Priority One: Recruit. Priority Two: See Priority One. Priority Three: Simplify, and enable recruits to be playmakers. Lou Holtz said football isn’t complicated.

Gr8 2B aFuzzyB

October 9th, 2012
8:48 pm

Hope we can turn the ship around. It’s not fair to any defense or coordinator when you fail on 4th down as often as we have been and in precarious spots on the field. Johnson would be well served to reign in his desire to score every possession. Even with a bad defense, when you make the opposition go a long field, they sometimes self destruct in the process.

Full Metal Jacket

October 9th, 2012
10:22 pm

Please do “figure it out.” Go Jackets!

Full Metal Jacket

October 9th, 2012
10:28 pm

Groh is a good man and a good coach. He may have lost some edge, and I was especially disturbed at our failure to make adjustments during games and to not be able to defend no-huddle and hurry-up offenses. We couldn’t even get the right number of players on and off the field, much less get aligned. That may not be all Groh’s fault, but now Kelly has his opportunity to shine and help the Jackets shine. I reject the notion that Johnson’s offenses are somehow “unfair” to his DC’s. They know what he runs and how he runs it when they are hired, and he gives them more autonomy than most other HC’s do. It is clear he wants a DC who takes ownership and full responsibility for the defense, with the full knowledge that the offense is his (CPJ’s) own domain.


October 9th, 2012
10:42 pm

Raid the staff at Alabama


October 9th, 2012
11:15 pm

Does Tech’s defense suck? Yes. But Coach Johnson’s hands aren’t exactly clean. The triple option was a smash 2009-2010 because he had the right personnel to run it (Josh Nesbitt, Roddy Jones, Orwin Smith, Demaryius Thomas), but teams have adjusted to it and now they aren’t fooling anyone in the ACC anymore. It’s been his bread and butter for the last 20+ years and I don’t see him evolving anytime soon. I’m not saying he should change his offensive scheme to a spread-option or pro-style offense, but he’s going to have to look in the mirror and do some soul searching before he fires anyone else.


October 10th, 2012
8:43 am

Well he can’t fire the offensive coordinator. With a 10.2 mil buyout (how stupid could Drad have been to do that) the HC isn’t going anywhere either. Bend over defensive staff. This classless OC will throw all of you under the bus before he ever admits it’s him that’s the problem.

[...] Tech Players Had Trust in Groh (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) [...]


October 10th, 2012
4:17 pm

Groh is gone because the players didn’t perform successfully on the field. Might be his fault – might be theirs. Only time will tell. The lack of offense has definitely put a lot of pressure on the defense, but even in the first half, there are way too many open receivers playing against us. I think we have enough linemen to play a 4-3, but the db’s have to really step it up.


October 10th, 2012
6:21 pm

“Lack of offense” ?

They’re 27th in the country in scoring offense. 22nd in total offense.
What are you guys talking about?

It’d be great to score more points and to do so consistently in the 4th quarter. But we are one of two teams in the country who score more than 35 a game and still have a losing record.

You can impugn Johnson’s ability to run a team, but not an offense. If the rest of the ACC is “catching up” to the triple option, why is Tech scoring more points than they did in 08-09? Do you think that perhaps if we were scoring 38 a game from the I-Formation, or the shotgun, or whatever, that you’d probably pass on the cliche about how teams have “adjusted” to the offense?

This is a defense that has been bad on a level seldom seen. It’s 109th in the country in 3rd down defense. It’s in the 90s for overall defense.

But you’re talking about how the offense isn’t getting it done. A top-25 offense.



October 10th, 2012
9:35 pm

If NC State can shut out Florida State in he second half with inferior players, then why cant we shut anyone out in the second half with better talent than NCS puts on the field.


October 10th, 2012
10:11 pm

Well written Stylee. Where I have some question about CPJ, particularly in the Clemson game was his lack of GO FOR IT right before the half when we drove into Clemson territory!!! Score there, instead of run out the clock and go ultra conservative, and we have a fighting chance getting the ball again in the second half???!!!! THAT seemed like playing not to lose like Gailey became famous for!!

Two missed field goals, ANOTHER safety ’caused’ by POOR ST play and the lack of points before halftime – hell thats another possible 11 points that could have made the game much closer/winnable!!