In audition, Kelly addresses Tech defense flaws

On the morning of Oct. 8, Paul Johnson came to a conclusion – Georgia Tech’s defense wasn’t very good, and it showed no signs of improvement. The Georgia Tech coach fired defensive coordinator Al Groh and called on secondary coach Charles Kelly to serve as the interim coordinator for the remainder of the season.

In seven games, Kelly hasn’t worked miracles. At the least, he has begun the clean-up job for the mess that the Tech defense had become.

“I think it’s gotten better at times,” said Johnson, not a man given to undue praise. “For sure, it’s better than it was.”

Kelly has one game remaining as interim coordinator, against USC in the Sun Bowl Dec. 31. To make one last impression on his employer, all he’ll have to do is contain the nation’s best wide receiver, USC’s Marqise Lee, and an offense dotted with NFL-bound stars.

“It’s a big challenge,” Kelly said of facing the Trojans. “But you know what? That’s why you play the game.”

The statistics don’t make a slam-dunk case that the defense has improved. In fact, by two important metrics, the defense has been virtually the same. Tech allowed 5.84 yards per play and 30.2 points per game under Groh this season. Under Kelly, the averages were 5.85 and 29.7.

Tech was worse in the red zone with Kelly, but averaged 2.6 sacks per game, almost one more per game than with Groh. Miami, Middle Tennessee State and Clemson torched the Jackets for 40-plus points in consecutive games, a first in school history, with Groh at the helm. BYU, North Carolina and Georgia also put up 40-plus with Kelly in charge.

The offenses that Tech faced in the final seven games were probably better as a group. While Boston College ranks No. 98 in total offense in FBS and Maryland dead last at No. 120, the Jackets also played three top-30 offenses –North Carolina, Florida State and Georgia. Tech faced Clemson (No. 9) in the final game of Groh’s tenure but no other top-30 teams and also played Presbyterian, which turned out to be a weak team even on the FCS level.

A few things commend Kelly’s run, though. One of Johnson’s biggest problems with Groh’s defense was its inability to force punts. At the time of his firing, the Jackets had a third-down efficiency rate of 47.8 percent. in the seven games since, the average has been 36.8 percent.

The others are the second halves against North Carolina and Florida State in the ACC title game. Against the Tar Heels, Tech gave up 382 yards and 36 points after one half and one play in the second half. For the remainder, UNC scored 14 points (seven off an interception return for a touchdown) and gained 115 yards. On their final seven offensive possessions, the Tar Heels scored once as Tech rallied for a 68-50 win.

Against the Seminoles, Tech gave up touchdowns on three of FSU’s first four possessions, on drives totaling 182 yards. After halftime, FSU didn’t dent the scoreboard, punting twice and turning the ball over three times.

“The last half of the ACC Championship game was probably the best half of defense we’ve played all year,” Johnson said.

Said Kelly, “I’d like to have more consistency. But I thought that our kids fought extremely hard in the championship game.”

Cornerback Louis Young said players have grown more comfortable with Kelly as the season has progressed.

“I think he’s doing a wonderful job,” he said. “The energy’s good.”

During bowl practice, Johnson said that he hadn’t begun actively looking for a full-time coordinator and that he will sit down with Kelly and other defensive assistants after the bowl game to discuss the future. Whatever happens, Kelly has Johnson’s appreciation.

“He went into a tough situation and he’s worked hard,” he said.

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Notes: Milton likely replacement for I. Johnson

Notes: USC defense loaded

Dan Radakovich Q&A

Four points from Tech-Alabama State

Jackets dump Alabama State

Notes: Waller’s confidence growing

Greene no longer with team

Notes: Orwin Smith nears record

Tech notes: When Shaq met Shaq

Thanks for reading.

Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog

38 comments Add your comment


December 22nd, 2012
10:40 am

On the morning of Oct. 8, Paul Johnson came to a conclusion – Georgia Tech’s defense wasn’t very good, and it showed no signs of improvement.

Wow, coach. What a revelation! Is that why you make millions of dollars every year…


December 22nd, 2012
11:10 am

The inability to get the defensive play calls to the players on the field before the snap was obvious. Groh could not deal with no huddle offenses. He would not simplify and adjust.


December 22nd, 2012
11:14 am

who in their right mind would want to come in here and coach this train wreck. How about Van Gorder. NOT. All the really good ones aren’t coming to Tech, just someone looking to get out from underneath a worse situation. I bet CPJ doesn’t have a clue as to who he wants and thats the scariest part of it all.

5150 UOAD

December 22nd, 2012
12:00 pm

Tech would be a great place for a GOOD DC. Tech’s Offence keeps the ball and the D fresh. If the D can help the O then the O helps the D. TECH with the right DC we can get the recruits and play in the ACC CG regularly.


December 22nd, 2012
1:35 pm

Agree with 5150


December 22nd, 2012
2:01 pm

“While Maryland ranks No. 98 in total offense in FBS and Maryland dead last at No. 120,”



December 22nd, 2012
2:06 pm

Georgia Tech needs to have a defense that compliments the offense. I believe that is a defense that plays aggressively, blitzing, creating big plays, sacks, turnovers. Get the offense back onto the field as quickly as possible. The worst thing about their defense over the last few years has been their inability to get off the field. They have been awful on third down, resulting in these epic long drives that take up entire quarters of the game. That keeps their offense off the field, and that is the last thing we need.

Tampa Wreck

December 22nd, 2012
2:47 pm

What this defense needs more than anything is some big guys up front that can rush the passer. If we can’t figure out how to put some pressure on opposing QBs without rushing 5 or 6 guys, no defensive coordinator in the country wil be able to help us. Let’s hope Gamble and Kallon are the real deal. Regardless, I’m looking forward to next season to see what this team can do with a QB with legitimate D1 talent.

Paul in NH

December 22nd, 2012
3:27 pm

CPJ needs an open search. GT needs more than a DC. They need a DC who can recruit good defensive players. Kelly has been at GT for 7 years and the defensive talent has regressed.

Ken Sugiura

December 22nd, 2012
3:34 pm

Casey – boston college was 98. fixed. thanks.


December 22nd, 2012
4:03 pm

Unfortunately, it took CPJ until October to realize what every one of us knew right off the bat – Groh’s defensive scheme was pure garbage and would not ever work at Tech.

Stinger 1

December 22nd, 2012
5:06 pm

Paul in NH: By “open search” do you mean a committee or a consulting firm to help?
You may be right but it won`t happen. CPJ nixed and laughed that suggestion off last week when asked by Ken if such a process was planned.


December 22nd, 2012
5:15 pm

GIFF SMITH. I hope Paul Johnson at least contacts Giff Smith. While he was here, Smith recruited strong defensive (and offensive) players. Even players that weren’t necessarily strong recruits were still players that could be coached up and pay at a high level. I would love to see Smith get an opportunity. I know he likes Gailey and the NFL, but I have to believe he’d at least be interested in coming back to ATL for a defensive coordinator position.


December 22nd, 2012
5:20 pm

Second on Giff. When everyone gets fired in Buffalo, we should immediately be on the phone.


December 22nd, 2012
6:20 pm

HEY WRECKER,.say what you want;but you are talking about hiring a coach that just got fired to come in as our DC and turn this thing around here .WHAT ARE YOU THINKING HERE ??

5150 UOAD

December 22nd, 2012
6:43 pm

techmule…….getting fired from the NFL is a lil different than losing a college job. Saban was a Fired coach that turned things around in Bama.


December 22nd, 2012
8:01 pm

@ gt4ever,….you were probably a Gailey supporter. In CPJ we trust,…direct that anger toward the hill,…they are the folks working to keep our program from being succesful.



December 22nd, 2012
9:01 pm

See that is part of what is qwrong at GT, Giff won’t get considered. CPJ and some


December 22nd, 2012
11:16 pm

If you eliminate every coach who’s ever been fired, there are no coaches left.


December 23rd, 2012
8:36 am

gt will have one hell of a time finding a D coach.The NFL is a passing league defending and practicing against the run will not attract gaulity D backs wanting to prepare for the next level.GOOD LUCK.

Supersize that order, mutt

December 23rd, 2012
11:35 am

@ superDawg…….that has to be the single most ignorant post I have ever read. Why would Tech need a DC to build a defense against the run? We need a DC and D backs to build a defense against ALL possible offensive sets, not just the run; we don’t have to play defense against ourselves.


December 23rd, 2012
12:32 pm

All I’m hoping for is for Giff to get a look. Would love to see more Joe Anoai’s, Mark Johnson’s, Vance Walker’s, Derrick Morgan’s, and Darryl Richard’s on that d-line!

Al Bundy

December 23rd, 2012
7:03 pm

This statement by CPJ tells me what an idiot he really is…. “Johnson said that he hadn’t begun actively looking for a full-time coordinator”. What coach in his right mind would fire his DC in October and NOT be looking for a replacement until after the end of the season. I got a news flash for you coach ALL the good DC’s will already be taken. I guess this means CPJ KNOWS no good DC would want to work for a coach that doesn’t give a rats butt about defense. Its all about HIS precious offense and recruiting offensive players. For CPJ defense is just an after thought!

CCKelley being evaluated for DC???

December 23rd, 2012
7:55 pm

[...] for DC??? From what I read here Kelley will get a hard look from CPJ for the DC job…. In audition, Kelly addresses Tech defense flaws | Georgia Tech Reply With [...]

GT Fan

December 23rd, 2012
9:32 pm

“The last half of the ACC Championship game was probably the best half of defense we’ve played all year,” Johnson said.
PROBABLY the best half of D, PJ?
Was he kidding?

Skull Murphy

December 23rd, 2012
9:47 pm

Ellis Johnson is ( or was) available. PJ should be held responsible for getting someone of this level or better.

Skull Murphy

December 23rd, 2012
9:48 pm

Kelly may be a good defensive coach but he hasn’t shown it. Too bad.


December 23rd, 2012
10:18 pm

On Jan 3rd-4th, Giff Smith will be introduced as the new DC. Waiting for bowl game and getting back to Atlanta. Let the last month of recruiting begin.


December 23rd, 2012
10:50 pm

Groh had years running this defense, Kelly had a half a year. Not fair to compare stats now.

gordon solie

December 24th, 2012
5:36 am

With more and more teams adopting the spread the field, up-tempo “air raid” style offenses – offenses that have passed the monte kiffens and al grohs of college fb by – GT would be well-served identifying a young defensive mind self-schooled in the contemporary offenses of today…a guy that can match wits with his offensive counterparts creating schemes effective in neutralizing what is essentially the 2min offense being played for 60min. Keep in mind, whoever is selected, they won’t have uga or clemson overall talent so it’s even more imperative to find that “diamond in the rough” just needing an oppty to show his stuff!


December 24th, 2012
8:02 am

i think this is CPJ’s last chance to get the DC choice right. He has been through two now. If we don’t see improvement on defense leading to better results period the next coach to see the door will be Johnson (especially with a new AD). I hope he gets it right. I think CPJ is a very smart coach, but I wonder if he is too stubborn at times to adjust out of his normal box when things don’t go well. I think he might be well served to involve a lot of outside people when choosing the next DC as his past two choices have not worked out so well.


December 24th, 2012
12:01 pm

REALLY hoping CPJ can get a quality DC in place…IF this happens, we will be a team that nobody’ll look forward to playing! They ALREADY hate our offense…just listen to the pup fans and players…match that up with a strong D and they’ll NEVER shut up! THAT’S some barking I could embrace! GO TECH!!!


December 24th, 2012
6:56 pm

You don’t know what to believe when CPJ speaks the guy, remember this one about CAG “He has been coaching 35 years he hasn’t forgot how to Coach” Really CPJ was wrong, CAG was not a good fit. How about “I don’t care about Stars!” Wrong GT does not have enough talent. What about, “Wait until I bring my recruits in” wrong he was in the TOP 20 with Gailey recruits. I hope this New Year CPJ relents on some of his blind stubboness. CBK is good and may need to be the choice at D but that whole Staff has to be upgraded. The present Recruiting model should be blown up and replaced with another one. A passing game should be learned by CPJ or bring someone in who can teach the passing games. He has 2 QB’s to build on I hope he doesn’t turn them into robotic QB’s! GT and CPJ can win, can be in TOP 25, only if CPJ changes SOME of his ways. HAPPY NEW YEAR GT and CPJ. has loss some credabilty

dry dirt road

December 25th, 2012
8:02 am

With so many points being put up on Tech under Kelly, he just is not the guy for DC. Tech should bring back one of their own. When they bought back Maxie Baughn, we had a strong D, when Perdoni was on the line. Back then there were no 40 points scored against Tech. That’s why CPJ should receive first every time if coin toss win, not kick off. Tech has had guys who would be capable DCs, beginning with Perdoni. Then Marco Coleman, Lucious Sanford, who’s there now in the AD admin, Pat Swilling, Phillipe Claybrooks, Ron Rogers, any of those guys would be capable DCs. That means CPJ should not be shy of former Tech players and should contact them about the DC job by sending written letters to them. CPJ is going to have to try to save his job, because he has a poor bowl record and w/l record against Georgia, and Gailey was fired because of his w/l record against Georgia, so he should get these letters out pretty quick. I don’t think he’s gonna make it as coach. His trip. opt. off. began to show up decades ago in NCAA football in the 70’s or 80’s, and fizzled out, just like the wishbone fizzled out.

Empty Seats

December 25th, 2012
9:24 am

Some reporter should ask Mr. Johnson:

How does one develop a passing defense practicing against the run only offense. Can a scout team properly prepare the defense for real time Div I first string passing no huddle offense?

Where do you see defense and special teams in 2016 when you contract ends Mr. Johnson?

Does the blocking rule changes in the NFL affect your prospective re:cut blocking?

After four DC’S, five years and your players installed, do you feel like you have earned you pay?

Tech fans want to know. Please ask Mr. Johnson these questions. Thanks.


December 25th, 2012
12:06 pm

Merry x-mas macriod you have been in hiding.Us mutts love whipping tek behind.NUFF SAID!


December 25th, 2012
3:13 pm

Awful head coach, awful offensive scheme, average players. Defense that is absolutely terrible. The whole program a disgrace to the institute. Especially the idiots that hired Johnson and then sit and do nothing while the program falls apart.

I can only pray that the stars and planets line up just right and we beat USC. Very unlikely, though. Honestly I cannot believe that there is a bowl that actually wants us to come to it. 8 straight bowl losses and failing fan support translating into low ticket sales. A real shame.

You know, when UGA jerks come on our blog and say rude things two things are true: Their comments show no class, but their points are correct.


December 25th, 2012
11:04 pm

I think Kelly is doing an OUTSTANDING job! He’s a keeper!