Charles Kelly focusing in on task at hand

Charles Kelly thought he was recruiting. In fact, he was interviewing for his job.

In the weeks after Paul Johnson was hired to replace Chan Gailey as coach of Georgia Tech in Dec. 2007, Gailey’s assistants stayed on to coach in the bowl game. Their futures at Tech were, at best, uncertain. In some cases, their commitment to keep recruiting reflected that.

Kelly, then Tech’s special-teams coordinator, kept up with phone calls and accompanied Johnson on home visits. After one visit, Johnson told Kelly that he wanted to be up front with him that he wasn’t necessarily going to be retained.

“And I will never forget,” Johnson said. “He told me, he said, ‘My dad taught me a long time ago, if you’re taking a man’s money, then you should work. I’m still taking their money, so I should work.’”

Kelly’s actions and response helped secure himself a spot on Johnson’s staff. Through his continued work, he has earned an opportunity to make the best of a bad situation and perhaps advance his career. For the remainder of the season, Kelly will serve as Tech’s interim defensive coordinator in the place of Al Groh, fired Monday.

“I’m going to do the job as hard as I can,” said Kelly, who grew up in Ozark, Ala., the son of a high school football coach.

Kelly, who comes across as earnest and team-oriented, assumes leadership of a listing ship. Tech has lost its past three games and given up 42, 49 and 47 points, becoming the first Tech team ever to allow 40 or more points in three consecutive games. Out of 120 FBS teams, the Yellow Jackets are ranked 89th in the country in scoring defense (30.2 points per game), 90th in total defense (431.0 yards per game) and 103rd in defensive third-down conversion percentage (47.8 percent).

His answer is to reduce the scheme, put players in position to succeed and practice with energy.

“The biggest thing we’ve tried to instill is, Hey, listen: What you do on Saturday are the habits that you develop during the week,” Kelly said.

The Jackets also figure to tweak the 3-4 scheme to a style more suited to the players’ s strengths and use more players than Groh had. Coaches also plan to run more full-speed drills to sharpen players’ tackling, a weak spot. Kelly, who has been a defensive coordinator at the FCS level at Nicholls State and Jacksonville State, will rely on the input of fellow defensive assistants Andy McCollum, Joe Speed and David Walkosky, the special-teams coordinator who is taking on the defensive line.

“He’s got us involved and we’re committed to him,” Walkosky said. “It’s really a ‘we’ thing.”

Kelly, 45, has made the work ethic he learned from his father Lavon and from Auburn coaching great Pat Dye, whom Kelly played for as a walk-on, a point of emphasis with his players.

“He made me a better player by never letting me get comfortable, always pushing me to do better,” former safety Rashaad Reid said.

Mario Butler, who played cornerback for Kelly and is on the Dallas Cowboys practice squad, said that besides insufficient effort, mental mistakes also drive Kelly up a wall.

“It wasn’t really nice, I can say that,” said Butler, asked how Kelly reacted to mental errors.

An intolerance for not executing assignments properly – and better yet, a method for avoiding them altogether – would do the Jackets well. Under Groh, players repeatedly lined up out of position and were unable to run the defense correctly. In last Saturday’s 47-31 loss to Clemson, Groh’s last, Johnson said he thought there were 47 missed assignments. Under Kelly’s direction, Tech will simplify its scheme to keep players from being slowed by having to think through their assignments.

Kelly’s players swear by him, not only for his coaching ability but for how he has developed relationships with them away from the game.

“I think he’ll do a great job,” Butler said. “I think the guys are going to respond well and play hard for him.”

Kelly will have the opportunity to win the full-time job, though, once again, there are no guarantees. And, like the last time, the only angle Kelly is playing is the one his father taught him.

“Honestly, what I’ve tried to do is focus on Georgia Tech and those players,” he said. “I think if you work and do your job, do everything you can, work as hard as you can, I can live with the results.”

(I think this should conclude Charles Kelly week.)

In case you missed it…

Notes: Tech defense receives energy fusion

Notes: Jackets move forward without Groh

Jeff Schultz: Radakovich says Johnson is ‘right person for this job’

Audition begins for interim Charles Kelly

More from Johnson on Groh

Mark Bradley: Groh goes, but question about talent remains

Al Groh fired at Tech

Players had trust in Groh

173 comments Add your comment

Supersize that order, mutt

October 11th, 2012
3:18 pm

OMG, am I first????

Greg

October 11th, 2012
3:19 pm

getting paid by the word Ken? :)

J

October 11th, 2012
3:19 pm

Could use some editing work there, Ken. It looks like you went wild with the copy-paste feature.

Supersize that order, mutt

October 11th, 2012
3:19 pm

Great article, Ken. Thanks

Supersize that order, mutt

October 11th, 2012
3:22 pm

However, the last half is a repeat of the first half. Like J said, you could use some editing work on it….LOL

Ken Sugiura

October 11th, 2012
3:25 pm

everybody’s a critic. (ha ha) thanks for letting me know.
very funny, greg.

SansWorld

October 11th, 2012
3:25 pm

Glad I stopped reading half way through.

Supersize that order, mutt

October 11th, 2012
3:26 pm

@ Ken…..you’re a good man and a good sport. That’s why we like you so much as our reporter

beezit

October 11th, 2012
3:27 pm

Fantastic body of work there, Ken….I would definitely use that piece in your portfolio when you go job hunting….which really should be soon….maybe you and Al Groh can hook up again…

Give Him A Chance

October 11th, 2012
3:30 pm

Looking forward to the next game. CCK has the right approach and I defensive momentum will build from the first 3 and out.
May not need to look elsewhere for a new DC.

Ken Sugiura

October 11th, 2012
3:31 pm

it’s fixed. you all are way too kind.

FL Jacket

October 11th, 2012
3:42 pm

Ken…I don’t see any mistakes. What is everyone talking about?

(haha)

Supersize that order, mutt

October 11th, 2012
3:45 pm

Ken may not be perfect, but he IS perfectly good for us Tech fans :)

Agreed, Super...

October 11th, 2012
3:56 pm

…Ken does a “super” job…

Golden White

October 11th, 2012
4:02 pm

Kelly’s pic reminds me of Erk.
Would be really nice if his D reminds me of Erk.

GT Fan

October 11th, 2012
4:02 pm

Clemson’s 1st drive went like this for GT’s D:
7yd gain
5yd gain, 1st down
Incomplete pass
Incomplete pass
Attouchu sack, 7yd loss
4th & 17 …. punt! Clemson only punt of the game.

How about many more series like that one for the GT D under Coach Kelly!

juvenal

October 11th, 2012
4:04 pm

and he takes criticism much better than CPJ……

RambleOn84

October 11th, 2012
4:05 pm

beezit,
Get a life.

Good stuff, Ken. I love the quote from Kelly’s father. I’m hoping the defense plays well enough for us to retain Kelly for next year as well.

GIVE ME A BREAK

October 11th, 2012
4:06 pm

Looking for the defense to come in fast and swarming. Ken, I think that we have adopted you.

TVFan

October 11th, 2012
4:13 pm

Ken
Even with this being a down year for GT, you have at least made it interesting and have cleaned up the comments section too. You are a credit to the AJC. With the changes made at GT, I’m excited about rest of the season.

www

October 11th, 2012
4:13 pm

so tech had a special teams coordinator in 2007? interesting.

FL Jacket

October 11th, 2012
4:19 pm

http://www…CPJ has always said that Kelly had the title of ST coordinator but not the time to do it exclusively. He was always secondary coach as well. He didn’t hire a dedicated ST coach until Walkosky.

collegeballfan

October 11th, 2012
4:23 pm

“(I think this should conclude Charles Kelly week.)”

I agree. Next week is player week.

GTfan2012

October 11th, 2012
4:42 pm

The good news here is that it is tough to do any worse than the last three games. GT’s defense has allowed the opponent to score points on nearly 75% of its drives and TDs nearly 60% of the time in the last three games. It would be difficult to be worse than that. I believe there is some talent on this team… unfortunately one entire position group seems to lack that talent, D-line. I really thought Izaan Cross would step up this year, but so far I haven’t seen that. The secondary has made some plays and those LBs have shown flashes, but overall the effort has been inconsistent. I’m hoping that playing more players will help, especialy late in the game.

jacket backer

October 11th, 2012
4:50 pm

Thanks Ken…..I’m really looking forward to the BC game…..Want to see a renewed enthusiasm on defense and a team flying to the football….I’m rooting for Coach Kelly!

Go Jackets!!

BigTimeTECHFan

October 11th, 2012
4:51 pm

Ken,

Do you know if GT is having a mid-night madness Basketball practice or anything Friday?
would be cool way to break in rebuilt arena.

I’m going to the BC game, finally. I’ll get to see Tech kick off their 25 game win streak.

University of Georgia Tech Technical Institute of Technology

October 11th, 2012
5:00 pm

The picture looks more like Verne Troyer or a bald Pat Day than Erk.

Hey, GT Joe...

October 11th, 2012
5:08 pm

…aren’t you the guy who has been calling for Vad to play? And now you are jumping on the JT wagon – I guess CPJ will have to spell it out for you re: JT adn why he does not play, just as he did on the radio show last night about why Vad does not play…you, sir, cannot have it both ways, but I guess it does not hurt to hope…

Geesh, www...

October 11th, 2012
5:11 pm

…every team has a special teams coordinator, whether he has an individual title as such or not – you think Urban Meyer and Frank Beamer have the title of special teams coach, too, or does Head Coach who coaches the special teams not fit your agenda?

OldSchoolTechFanatic

October 11th, 2012
5:14 pm

I hope I don’t jinx anyone but I don’t think the D can be any worse than it was. I don’t even see how anyone knew what was wrong with the D except for maybe they gave up on the coach. Good like coach Kelly, if you let the guys play I think this D will be much improved. I hate a wait and react D. You have to be agressive on D. And again good luck and let them ponies run coach Kelly !!!

CT_Jacket

October 11th, 2012
5:29 pm

Ken does do a great job. I wish we had him on the College Recruiting Blog too. Look at Carvell’s last dozen posts. We hardly ever hear who is visiting or what coaches and players think of GT, other than a sentence or two. While we are recruiting just as well, maybe slightly better, under PJ as under CG on average, I’d like to know what is keeping the local 4-star, and occasional 5-star, players from coming. Our classes are mostly loaded with 3-star players, which is good, but I’d love to see more playmakers on the field.

I can understand some objections to the spread option offense, but look at how many schools run the read option. Unless you’re Cam Newton or Tim Tebow, you’re not running that in the NFL. USCe just passed 10 times in their game with UGA. For Olineman, yes, GT cut blocks, but so do NFL teams with a zone blocking offense. (Of course we do have 2-3 big commmits there.) Big WRs can flourish in this offense and make it to the NFL. Dual-threat QBs, like Justin Thomas, should love this offense.

Then there is the defense. There is no reason we should not be able to recruit top local players there. Over a third of the NFL runs the 3-4.

I do think that Tech’s academics limit the pool of available players. Just look at some of the top SE players who have GT on their list of schools with offers from dozens of schools but us. But why do we miss out on the ones going to Vandy, Stanford and ND?

NFL aspirations? While the SEC may be on top, the ACC is still typically third or fourth on draft day. Plus, the ACC has had more Pro Bowl players the last three seasons by a wide margin.

Stadium size? It’s larger than Oregon’s, Stanford’s, Vandy’s and TCU’s, among others.

I’d like to hear it directly from coaches and players.

Coach Z

October 11th, 2012
5:56 pm

Living in Raleigh NC I have seen Vad Lee destroy some HS offenses. It may not translate to the ACC, but I’m a believer. I want to see him start, of course only after TW has no more illegibility. Lee has mobility, an arm and instinct. Ultimately, my hope for Tech is that the program is noted for recruiting premier RBs. Similarly, to when Cremins recruited premier PGs.

Coach Z

October 11th, 2012
5:59 pm

Alas, Linebacker U does have a nice ring to it!

Clyde

October 11th, 2012
6:07 pm

Finally, a change. I’m not going to expect a new quarterback unless we reach the point where it will be a losing record. CPJ and the team must be pretty pumped about simplifying and working in more players to give guys a break throughout the game.

[...] Defensive Coordinator Ken Sugiura writes another good article focusing on Coach Kelly….. Charles Kelly focusing in on task at hand | Georgia Tech Reply With [...]

Ohio Jacket

October 11th, 2012
6:25 pm

Ken, I think this is one of your best articles in terms of its focus on the situation and realities at hand and learning about the new person in the position (Coach Kelly). Thanks!

Ice eater 1969

October 11th, 2012
6:29 pm

As I have said groh should let the players go at it so they can be seen on tv making crushing tackles or scoring defensive touchdowns.

He would not let them go so we had to let him go.

Recruiting will be easier to an aggressive defense than to a read react defense.

I am not sure about the practice squad differences. With read and react the slower weaker practice squad guy is engaged by the faster stronger first team defender who then easily holds him off until he breaks down on the play. Without good coaching this results in sloppy play when on Saturday we find the first team opponent shows up.
With aggressive defense schemes -especially blitzes it maybe easier for coaches to see if we are not hiding or blitzing the proper running lanes….?. I remember undr bud Carson . The lb coach was jerry Glanville. He came in and really shook up the gentleman tackling. Went nuts in practices. The cub bard was bare and he did what he could and it was fun to watch.
Great to say it with gusto. To hell with ga ( except for the cool ga guys that are on our blog)

Next question is what academic adjustments and course offerings are needed. …?….

I th

GTpack

October 11th, 2012
6:32 pm

Would love to see our team tackling runners around the knees and below. Watching a couple of games last week, when really good runners are hit high, they tend to gain another 4 to 5 yards. When hit around the ankles they seem to drop right there. Also many times when hitting high, they bounce off, taking a runners legs out from under him is a good way to stop him in his tracks.

Any thoughts on this?

Clyde

October 11th, 2012
6:34 pm

I think if the receiver had been tackled like that in the last minute of the Virginia Tech game, GT would have an another win in the column, GTpack.

Delbert D.

October 11th, 2012
7:12 pm

As a Navy guy, I really like the “listing ship” metaphor.

1 4 GT

October 11th, 2012
7:12 pm

Clemons TV announcers said CU ran 93 offensive plays. Ken quotes CPJ as saying our defenders were out of position on 47 of those plays. That’s just a few hundredths over 50%. Is it any wonder we lost? It’s a wonder we made the game as close as it was, IMNTBHO.

Delbert D.

October 11th, 2012
7:16 pm

GTpack – I had a closeup view of one of Tech’s OLBs in the Middle Tennessee game (who played only the first half, won’t mention his name) diving at Cunningham’s and receivers’ feet with his shoulder pads, turning his back. It didn’t work at all. They really need to form tackle.

1 4 GT

October 11th, 2012
7:18 pm

I know I like reading CCK is going to cut ‘em loose & play aggressively. IMO, that’s the way defense should be played. I would add one word to their vocabulary though, “play with controlled aggression”.

Delbert D.

October 11th, 2012
7:19 pm

However, an example of a guy who goes down on the ankle tackles is Michael turner of the Falcons.

1 4 GT

October 11th, 2012
7:21 pm

Delbert….this ship was close to “listing” completely wrong side up. I believe it is coming back upright now!

Clyde

October 11th, 2012
8:10 pm

Still might get beat up and down the field but I’m feeling a little better about it right now at least.

1 4 GT

October 11th, 2012
8:15 pm

No negativity allowed!

GT1990

October 11th, 2012
8:21 pm

For once i can say that i have a little faith in coach kelly. I love that these coaches FINALLY made the move to fit the d scheme around the players. That was something dumb dumb groh couldnt’t do!

HighTech

October 11th, 2012
8:22 pm

Any momentum that is gained for the rest of this season should carry forward to next season. Let’s get bowl eligible and win! Beat the dwags in Athens, too!

Gr8 2B aFuzzyB

October 11th, 2012
8:30 pm

I think CPJ is starting to feel his oats again now that our other head coach is out of the picture. I expect the results will be better and hopefully, assuming we beat BC, we get on a roll. This team seemed to have so much potential after the opener, but the Miami collapse really took the wind out of the sail. A win or two will round out that spinacker again.