Johnson on defense: ‘We don’t need 80 calls’

In his Tuesday news conference, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson gave more insight into schematic changes he wants to incorporate for the Yellow Jackets defense. In short, he would like the defense to distance itself from much of the approach of former coordinator Al Groh. Johnson recounted a number of problems he had with Tech’s scheme with Groh, most of it revolving around what he thought was an overabundance of complexity.

“We don’t need 80 calls,” he said. “You don’t need a buzzword on everything. We need guys to learn how to play and play hard.”

Echoing comments he had made previously, Johnson said he has become more involved in putting together the defensive game plan and practice schedule. He also said more players will play and suggested there will be fewer sub packages, saying that no-huddle offenses have exploited Tech’s defense by keeping a nickel or dime defense on the field after converting a first down on 3rd-and-long.

“And that’s what’s happening, whereas in years past, you didn’t see 72 guys change on third down,” he said. “There might be an extra defensive back go in and one guy come out.”

A change Johnson mentioned more than once is that the defense won’t change its play call on the fly as the offense shifts formation.

“There’s got to be some communication, but when one guy goes in motion, it doesn’t have to change seven people,” he said. “I’m not saying that the other way was that complicated, but the way it was, it wasn’t working. I got tired of hearing, ‘Well, I didn’t get a call.’ ‘Well, yeah, you did.’ ‘Well, no, I didn’t.’”

It may mean that players aren’t in the “ultimate supreme position,” as Johnson put it, but the hope is that a one-call system will reduce confusion or miscommunications. He said that at times, because of communication issues, one side of the defense was playing one call and the other side was playing another.

“I think you’ve got to learn how to play defense and you put your eyes on a guy and they’ll tell you where the ball’s going, as opposed to trying to recognize 82 different plays,” he said. “That’s just me.”

Other notes:

1. Center Jay Finch will practice Tuesday, but Johnson wasn’t sure if he would be in a gold (limited contact) jersey or not.

2. Johnson said he hadn’t seen a difference in strength and conditioning. With new strength and conditioning coach John Sisk starting in May, “I don’t think you’re going to see a difference this year,” he said.

3. Johnson on his recollections of Tech’s last game against Boston College, a 19-16 win over the Eagles in his first-ever ACC game. “We struggled offensively like crazy and we played really good on defense. We turned ’em over, held ’em repeatedly when we turned it over. And managed to hit a couple of plays offensively and just enough to win the game. … That was probably one of our better defensive games since I’ve been here.”

4. Johnson said his personal preference regarding the ACC’s scheduling format would be to get rid of the permanent crossover partners if rivalries such as North Carolina-N.C. State and Miami-Florida State could be preserved.

“Truthfully, Georgia Tech-Clemson, that’s a good game, that’s a close game, but it’s not the same rivalry as Georgia Tech-Georgia or North Carolina-N.C. State or Florida State-Miami probably, although it’s turned into one because we play each other every year. But historically, it probably wasn’t the same. But the other teams are, so I don’t know how they get away from [permanent crossover partners] unless they change divisions.”

In case you missed it…

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Tech notes: Washington firm at quarterback

Tech needing Attaochu’s spark


Thanks for reading.

Ken Sugiura

107 comments Add your comment

SS loves Obama

October 16th, 2012
4:04 pm

Good article Ken. Keep it simple for the kids.

George Stein

October 16th, 2012
4:19 pm

Yeesh. That comes across as a body-slam of Groh, which is unnecessary because the defense has sucked for long enough that words are not needed. Plus, without Groh there to defend himself, I’d prefer Johnson just say we’re going to do something a bit simpler and stop.

I like the Clemson game. They have great fans who have always been hospitable to me. I’d hate to see that game go away.

George Stein

October 16th, 2012
4:22 pm

By go away, I mean not played annually.

headley lamar

October 16th, 2012
4:30 pm

Man you can really tell how big of a jerk CPJ is just by reading this article.

With the cute little way he exaggerated the numbers.

Jesus the guy sounds like a 4 year old.

New to this

October 16th, 2012
4:38 pm

I am generally a fan of CPJ, but I have to agree with you guys on this one. He did pile on a little bit in this article. I know in the real world nobody wants to work for a boss who is willing to throw people under the bus. We will already have difficulties with getting a top flight DC (if Coach Kelly doesn’t pan out) without candidates worrying about when the next Tech Trolley is coming…

SS loves Obama

October 16th, 2012
4:42 pm

@George Stein…I would say behind Ugag, Clumpsen is our biggest rival. Its generally a better game as well.

George Stein

October 16th, 2012
4:45 pm

I think that’s a fair statement, SS loves Obama.


October 16th, 2012
4:53 pm

Wrong calls and wrong formations does not explain plain poor tackling. MTSU caused enough missed tackles for a season for any other team.

SS loves Obama

October 16th, 2012
4:54 pm

Its funny how Texas, UTKnoxville, Auburn, Arkansas, etc think that Jon Gruden is a viable coaching candidate. Dude makes $7 million a year broadcasting games. His boys are in high school in the Tampa area. It ain’t going to happen. Now if the Dallas Cowboys job opens up……


October 16th, 2012
4:54 pm

Ditto to George Stein’s comments. I know coach is responding to questions, but just say we are going in a different direction and leave it at that. Never thought a .500 record would sound this good, but we really need to win these next couple of games to get there guys!


October 16th, 2012
4:57 pm

Does the SS stand for “sinking ship”? Sorry, couldn’t resist.

Groh and CPJ are big boys and I am sure Groh has heard the critique before. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the fire. He would have gotten all the credit if theings had been different. On the contrary, he was given free reign and the trend was not a positive one.

go jackets

October 16th, 2012
4:57 pm

CPJ is responsible for this football team in all phases period. if our offense was so good, why did we not score on either possession in overtime this season? At least a field goal….I want GT to WIN and being a season ticket holder for many years, have never felt like the players quit as they did against MTSU….we have five games and then UGAG left, last season we started strong and finished weak…this season we can finish strong agianst this schedule, or CPJ should be evaluated totally and who knows?



October 16th, 2012
5:02 pm

you can’t expect praise when you set records with how bad you are


October 16th, 2012
5:06 pm

Though a no-brainer, firing Groh was the biggest decision during his tenure at Tech. He is in front of the press, so he has to explain what will be different. Just sayin…

Tech Fan Since 1950

October 16th, 2012
5:07 pm

I think I have been as supportive of Coach Johnson as anyone. I still am, but I have to say that if you are going to play straight up vanilla defense you need to have the personnel to do it. It means better recruiting and maturity on the defensive side, especially in the defensive line. Football really isn’t as complex as some like to make it, but how it is played has rapidly changed since the early 1990’s. I observed the spread formation up close when Valdosta State University was the only school in the state to utilize it. Defenses couldn’t match it, but VSU would score so much and so fast with it that there was a reverse effect (The VSU defense would be on the field too long). Mike Leach and Chris Hatcher, among others, left VSU to “spread” the word successfully and what they achieved at VSU was watched closely by FSU, Florida, Georgia, not to mention Texas Tech, Kentucky, etc. Georgia Tech has a sufficient offense but needs a few more passes thrown in (hope Vad Lee will be allowed to get involved). The problem at Tech since Coach Johnson has arrived has been the defense. He knows it and tried to do something about it with a scheme of one sort or another. BUT, It really comes down, in my opinion, to recruiting better defensive personnel. Yea, I know, that is the perpetual no brainer.

westcoast techie

October 16th, 2012
5:08 pm

CPJ may have said it more diplomatically, but what he said is correct. Our defense couldn’t play aggressively because they were too confused and thinking too much. How often did you see the LBs looking back over their shoulders giving calls to the DBs when the ball was snapped. How many times did we have to call timeout because we were in the middle of subbing when the hurry up offense was going to run a play. Many times our defense weren’t all on the same page. When the TV cameras showed CAG in the press box, he really looked like a deer in the headlights.


October 16th, 2012
5:09 pm

CPJ has not said anything ugly but the truth. He is only saying that Al’s scheme was to complicated and quantified the communication issues.

He did not say the scheme in and of itself was bad, but the ability to implement/communicate the scheme was bad as shown in games.

We need to match our scheme to our players and the to the time allowed for coaching.

What happened in the games was worse then the words …Al’s defense was to complicated and caused confusion.

Typical response by CPJ...

October 16th, 2012
5:11 pm

…re: CAG – throw whomever it is under the bus, same as he does his players. The guy can coach the TO though (37 points per game don’t lie), yet he still has that grating personality quirk of an Eddie Haskell…

I still see the season ending with at least 1 ACC more loss (UNC,) with the UGA game being a toss-up since UGA will probably lose to UF, and they still have not figured out how to stop anybody, much less someone like GT…

SS loves Obama

October 16th, 2012
5:12 pm

@GTVegas…..Steve Smith

And, I agree with SS L O......

October 16th, 2012
5:14 pm

…Gruden ain’t goin’ nowhere, not any college program anyway – pro coaches do not have to do anything but manage their team – no recruiting and no alumni…

SS loves Obama

October 16th, 2012
5:21 pm

UTKnoxville fans think since Grudens wife was a cheerleader at UT he would for some reason be inclined to take that job. UT is a sinking ship(SS…Lol) imo.


October 16th, 2012
5:28 pm

I have no problem with what the coach says here. Sounds like he sat down wiht his new DC, the DC told him what changes he wanted to make, and the Coach has bought into them.

It seems reasonable that he communicate what those changes are.

Frankly the Defence approach mirrors his Offenceive approach with realiticly few calls, formations, plays.

Delbert D.

October 16th, 2012
5:35 pm

I don’t like it when coaches mince words. Tell it like it is. Mike Leach referred to his players as “corpses” last week. That’s not telling it like it is, because it is a metaphor. I’d rather hear what he really thinks.

SS loves Obama

October 16th, 2012
5:37 pm

@Delbert…Good points. Leach can be a little over the top.

Highly Respected Southern Troll

October 16th, 2012
5:37 pm

Three things…

1) GT-Clemson is a much better rivalry than UNC-NC State and should be preserved. What the hell is Johnson talking about?

2) GT should schedule Auburn every year. That was one of the oldest rivalries in the South and it should’ve been maintained.

3) Johnson probably deserves to be canned if he loses to UGA again this year. That’s not likely to happen, I know, but if he hasn’t beaten the Dawgs again by the end of next season then tell him GOODBYE!

Tech Student

October 16th, 2012
5:39 pm

I’m starting to get a feeling that CPJ despises playbooks with more than 10 plays on both sides of the ball. I’m actually getting the feeling that he doesn’t like anything overly complex which is strange seeing that he works at an engineering school.


October 16th, 2012
5:41 pm

Somewhat harsh words about the defensive scheme up to this point, but so what? It’s the truth, and I continue to be a fan of how frank Johnson can be. He didn’t make it sound like Tech’s gonna run a basic defense; he just wants to simplify the scheme enough so that communication issues don’t get in the way of making the plays. I was a bit mortified at “…one side of the defense was playing one call and the other side was playing another.”

Same Old

October 16th, 2012
5:44 pm

One or maybe two more wins this year! Probably just one!
After BC win, they get the big head and don’t show for BYU.
After that, they quit!
Another @%$&*() loss to uga, no bowl game, which is good, ’cause we don’t win bowl games anyway! Same Old, Same Old!


October 16th, 2012
5:47 pm

Why is everyone making a big deal about what PJ is saying? He didn’t throw anyone under the bus and he wasn’t making excuses. Though the number might have been exaggerated, what he said is true. Last time I checked, telling facts isn’t throwing someone under the bus. People are to sensitive now a days and don’t know how or just can’t take criticism.

Same Old

October 16th, 2012
5:50 pm

Oh yeah… another loosing BB season too!
Then the same next year!

Dawg-Hatin' Jacket

October 16th, 2012
5:52 pm

Yeah I agree. I enjoy the Clempson rivalry. It is regional, lots of Clempson recruiting in our area, and it has turned into something meaningful the last few years. Would hate to see that one go away.

SS loves Obama

October 16th, 2012
5:57 pm

@Dawg-Hatin…I dont think the Clumpson game is going anywhere. Dabo knows Atlanta is important for recruiting and playing/beating Tech enhances the CU brand.


October 16th, 2012
5:58 pm

The Clemson rivalry needs to stay. CPJ is way off on that one. I would rather drop UGA than Clemson.


October 16th, 2012
6:02 pm

“no bowl game, which is good, ’cause we don’t win bowl games anyway! ”
Kind of like a 6-6 UCLA team representing the PAC12 south, then getting creamed by Oregon, to end up 6-7 and not deserving a bowl. (but getting one anyway)

GT Rick

October 16th, 2012
6:05 pm

Does Supersize that order, mutt still blog here? Haven’t seen him around in a while.


October 16th, 2012
6:09 pm

Regarding the Clemson crossover game, the if ACC keeps the one mandatory repeat crossover game, that leaves one additional crossover game per season (other six Coastal opponents, Clemson plus the one other).

That means that Tech will see the other six Atlantic teams once every six years. That means, for example, Tech will play FSU once every six years, and will play the Noles once at home every 12 years.

That’s terrible.

The mandatory crossover stinks.

Should be play all six in your division (remember, expansion), and play two different teams from the Atlantic every year. Switch Miami into the Atlanta so they can play FSU every year, and NC State into the Coastal so they can play UNC every year. Clemson-GT? Not bad, but is it so important to play Clemson every year that it’s worth playing the other six Atlantic teams once every six? Once at home every 12?

Here’s one vote that says no.

Jim 70

October 16th, 2012
6:15 pm

Trade Miami for nc state, then those two games stay. Playing Clemson every year helps their recruiting in georgia, but doesn’t help ours.

With more teams in the acc, keeping that game means less seeing other teams as often.

yellow britches

October 16th, 2012
6:30 pm

I can’t believe the apologists on this blog! My God man, the defense has been awful, terrible, woeful and virtually nonexistent and we have folks defending Al Groh?! Look, Coach Johnson has done a great job of depicting himself as the offensive coordinator masquerading as the head coach. For some reason people on this site see no evil when it comes to holding CPJ responsible for the defensive collapse, if there ever was a defense. Hard to tell since the defense never showed up. CPJ is ultimately responsible for the debacle and when he moves in to at least attempt a correction, we have people saying he is “piling on”. I just don’t get it. For the first time in three years he is acting like a HEAD COACH. What is wrong with you people.


October 16th, 2012
6:37 pm

Did anyone hear Steve Spurrier throwing Shaw under the bus during halftime of the LSU/SC game? I saw the plays, saw what he saw, he said what I was thinking. Everything added up to me.

Erk Russell's Defense

October 16th, 2012
6:59 pm


Go get the ball.

This took four years and a load of $.

Lets hope it works.


October 16th, 2012
7:01 pm

Sounds to me like CPJ and Al had many conversations about defense and someone never listened. Playing a D in college that is that complicated, relies on groups and calls heavily will always be a loser. It may be used in the pros but if you look at pro FB, you are not seeing too much real D there either so maybe complicted D is just not ready for prime time.

TechApp fan

October 16th, 2012
7:08 pm

@southern troll…please explain your #1. PJ indicated unc-nc state is a good rivalry…


October 16th, 2012
7:13 pm

Maybe GT can “shock the world” and go undefeated the remainder of this season!!!

Not likely, but I am still a strong supporter of Coach PJ and the GT Football team.

SS loves Obama

October 16th, 2012
7:17 pm

I have stated before we need to let the WHOLE season play out. Obviously the game had passed CAG by. However, CPJ still has a lot of fight left and I am not going to give up on him or the program until it becomes painfully obvious. JMO.

Hayseed Dixie

October 16th, 2012
7:21 pm

CPJ just sounds like he’s venting around 3 years worth of frustration. I don’t mind his tone here, at all.

Let’s say some of you guys hired a contractor to work on your house or business. Imagine that contractor didn’t meet his expectations, wasted a bunch of your time, and dragged your home/organization down while he was at it.

You’d be a little peeved, wouldn’t you? In fact, most of you would be full of typical internet-caliber rage.

Now CPJ hired Groh to do a job. Not only that, he stayed the heck out of his way and let him do it with impunity (I defy any of you to come up with evidence showing where CPJ interfered with him). This, folks, is how Grown Men Do Things: hire a guy, and let him do his job.

So- Groh didn’t meet his expectations, in fact, he fairly well shot significantly *below* those expectaions. He wasted everyone’s time, and dragged the program down a couple notches while he was at it.

In this context if a little verbal jab here or there in a regional media session is the worst Groh has to deal with, then I say he got off pretty clean. Tech fans didn’t get off so clean walking out of the Miami game, so Groh can take it on the chin just fine.

The irony is, the public perception of CPJ is that he’s an egomaniacal jerk, when, in reality he hired a dude and stayed the heck out of his way until it was time to not do so anymore.

All of my UGA alum friends have mentioned to me that they wished that CMR had the stones to do this to Martinez or Bobo mid-season.

I say, good riddance. Play simple, play fast, Go Jackets.


October 16th, 2012
7:37 pm

how many of y’all talking about his comments of “piling on” actually watched the presser? reading his comments in this article and watching it to see his body language and his voice inflection are two different things. i watched and he didn’t come across as bitter or full of sour grapes at all. he came across as a coach who’s trying to figure out what the hell has been going wrong and getting it right. that’s why he’s there. watch the tape if you haven’t.

Charleston Jacket

October 16th, 2012
8:11 pm

Seems we heard this “keep it simple” before. Two fired D coordinators in 4 years – not a good record to talk about. Next hire needs to be the right one or I am afraid CPJ will be gone by 2014. TW is a big part of our lack of performance. No ablility to pick up his team mates or get people fired up at crucial times. He is an avg QB with less than avg results. Not trying to bash TW just don’t see any evidence of his ability to get it done at crunch time.


yellow britches

October 16th, 2012
8:22 pm

Tevin is doing the best job possible given the offense he is called or coached to run. Vad Lee has an NFL body and NFL skills and he is suited to run a pro style or, at the least, a spread offense. CJP is not going to change offenses midway through the season, ergo TW is our quarterback.


October 16th, 2012
8:24 pm

Sad that he has to dumb it down for the players, I thought Tech was supposed to have smarter athletes. Guess not.


October 16th, 2012
8:33 pm

TW simply calls his own number too much. All a defense has to do is key on him and Tech’s offense is thwarted. Tech needs to start the BC game by throwing for more than half the plays in the first three series. That will really confuse BC..