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