(UPDATED BELOW WITH TECH CONFIRMING WOMMACK’S FIRING)
It took a 7-5 regular season and a 4-4 SEC record before Georgia coach Mark Richt finally decided to make a change at defensive coordinator. Paul Johnson isn’t going to wait for a slide at Georgia Tech.
Tech will announce today that maligned defensive coordinator Dave Wommack is out as defensive coordinator. A surprising candidate to replace him is former Virginia head coach Al Groh, who was fired this year after nine seasons but was a long time successful defensive assistant in the NFL.
When asked about Wommack’s possible exit Friday, Johnson said only, “There’s going to be an announcement on that later this afternoon.”
As for the Groh rumors, Johnson was less evasive: “I have no idea where that came from. It’s not true. I haven’t hired anybody.”
When asked if Groh is a candidate for the job, Johnson said, “I have no idea. There’s probably going to be a lot of candidates. … I would think he’s a guy who would be a great candidate if he’s interested. But I don’t know if he is. He’s collecting a lot of money up there [from his buyout at Virginia].”
Groh was in Atlanta before Tech’s Orange Bowl game, watching one of the Jackets’ practices. At the time, Johnson dismissed Groh’s presence as nothing significant.
There have been rumors for weeks that Wommack might retire or resign. The Yellow Jackets allowed 30 or more points in six games this year and have ranked from the middle to the bottom of the ACC in several defensive statistical categories the last two seasons.
The Jackets just completed an 11-3 season with a 24-14 loss to Iowa in the Orange Bowl. Ironically, the game was one of Tech’s better defensive performances of the season. But during the season in the ACC, Tech ranked eighth in rush defense, sixth in pass defense, seventh in total defense, ninth in opponent pass efficiency, sixth in scoring defense and ninth in sacks and 10th in tackles for loss.
Going back to the final two games of last season — a 45-42 win over Georgia and a 38-3 loss to LSU — the Jackets have allowed 30 or more points in eight out of 16 games, but managed to go 5-3 in those games (including losses to Miami and Georgia this year).
HERE ARE EXCERPTS FROM GEORGIA TECH’S NEWS RELEASE:
Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Dave Wommack will not return for the 2010 season, Yellow Jacket head coach Paul Johnson said today.
“Dave is a good man and a good football coach,” Johnson said.
“But after speaking to him earlier this week, we both agreed that it was time for a change at that position.”
The search for a new defensive coordinator will begin immediately, Johnson said.
Georgia Tech ranked 54th nationally in total defense in 2009, breaking a streak of five consecutive years finishing ranked in the top 30 in that category. The Yellow Jackets ranked 56th in scoring defense, 68th in rushing defense and 88th in pass efficiency defense.
Tech held three ACC opponents – North Carolina, Virginia and Duke – to 10 points or less, but the Yellow Jackets allowed 30 or more points six times in 2009. Tech allowed 66 plays of 20 yards or longer and 22 touchdown drives of three minutes or less.
Wommack’s departure leaves two vacancies on the Georgia Tech staff.
A-backs coach Jeff Monken resigned earlier to become the new head coach at Georgia Southern.