Tech’s new mission: Find a defense to complement its offense

A sight seldom seen: Tech tackles C.J. Spiller. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

A sight seldom seen: Tech tackles C.J. Spiller. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

You could hand Paul Johnson the New Christy Minstrels and in a month he’d have them rushing for 300 yards. So long as he’s at Georgia Tech, the offense will be fine. As for the defense …

Tech is bound for the Orange Bowl with a defense ranked 54th nationally in yards allowed. By way of comparison, Georgia ranked 30th in total defense and just fired three of its four coaches. Tech won games by scores of 30-27 (twice), 41-30, 49-44, 56-31,  and 39-34. It was a wild and successful ride — can’t argue with a conference title — but how long can a program subsist on offense alone?

Johnson said this week he would “take a look” at his defense after the Orange Bowl, but clearly he’s not going to change any coaches. (If he were, he would have already.) And in his press briefing this week he told reporters: “[The defense is] part of the team and they won 11 games, so that’s good. They got a stop in the [ACC] championship to end the game and a stop in the Wake Forest game to put it into overtime … I tell the team all the time it doesn’t matter if you win 7-6 or 47-46, you all win or you all lose. They don’t break it up.”

Trouble is, Tech figures to lose junior end Derrick Morgan to the NFL draft. So: Subtract the ACC’s defensive player of the year from a unit that was already substandard –in neither of Tech’s past two games was the opponent induced to punt — and you get … what?

Better, Giff Smith hopes. He has standing in this issue, given that he’s Tech’s defensive line coach and its recruiting coordinator. Asked Wednesday if a defense sans Morgan would be destitute, Smith said: “We have young guys we made the decision to redshirt that might have helped us this year. The future bodes well. That said, we haven’t performed the way we wanted.”

Smith was the recruiting coordinator under Chan Gailey, and part of his mission has changed because of his new boss. Johnson’s offense isn’t a place for dropback quarterbacks or tight ends or receivers who want to catch 100 passes. But recruiting for defense has, Smith said, “stayed pretty standard.”  Which means the Jackets are fishing the same pond as every other program.

Tech has had only two recruiting classes under Johnson, but neither has yielded a defender of the same exalted pedigree as Morgan. If we check the early rankings for 2010, we note that rivals.com puts the Jackets 37th nationally. (The 2009 class was rated 49th.) That wouldn’t seem a windfall, but …

Of Tech’s four four-star commitments for 2010, two are defensive linemen and two defensive backs. That would seem a good thing at the right time. Said Smith: “Coach Johnson has put an emphasis on getting players on that side of the ball.”

There are times when you’d swear Johnson prefers the game to come down to his offense having to make a drive or a play. He’s an offensive guy, and that part he can control. And sometimes it works: Tech won the ACC title on a touchdown with 1:20 to play, though the defense did have to make a final stand. But sometimes it doesn’t: You might recall the Jackets failing on their final possession against Georgia.

If Tech is to rise even higher — and Johnson makes it clear his goal is to play for the national championship — it must find a defense that can keep every game from turning into Arena football. That will happen only with better players, and better players only arrive via recruiting. Giff Smith insists he likes the way the wind is blowing: “We’re getting there,” he said.

Then he said something else: “We just need to get there quicker.”


347 comments Add your comment

@wbarker

December 16th, 2009
2:22 pm

What happened this year? Did losing those three on the defensive line really hurt that much?

EW

December 16th, 2009
2:23 pm

Read the article so probably not first…let’s see….

Phil of Playaz Ball

December 16th, 2009
2:28 pm

Losses on the DL hurt, losing Cooper Taylor (starting FS) hurt, losing a starting LB hurt.

That said, some of our games were played as if the defense didn’t show up at all – improvements need to be made.

EW

December 16th, 2009
2:28 pm

Nope….Anyway….MB you’re right that GT needs to focus on D. I think the people sitting on the fence with CPJ initially have seen how the spread option can control the clock and put lots of points on the board. The recent success (and an Orange Bowl win) would lead me to think that really good defensive prospects may see an opportunity to play early and jump on the bandwagon with a program on the rise. In that case this might work itself out…I think the problems on D for GT are personell related more than scheme related (with Morgan being a glaring exception) What do you think?

30-24

December 16th, 2009
2:29 pm

That’s 24 points against *Willie Martinez*.

MalibuGT

December 16th, 2009
2:29 pm

30-24…i got it, i got it.

Mark, do you think the main issue this year was d line? i always felt it was the linebackers where we had the biggest gap (covering backs out of the backfield and letting running plays bounce outside. I’m not sure what the prospects are there for next year. Do you know if Cooper Taylor is supposed to play next year or is he done with football?

CalhounDawg

December 16th, 2009
2:38 pm

If you guys had a decent defense you would’ve won this year. And, I don’t think CWM beat Tech with his D either. I think CMB deserves the credit for having Cox hand off the ball and keep Tech’s O off the field. I’m glad CWM is gone and hope that we get a DC that is equal to the quality of UGA’s program.

GT45

December 16th, 2009
2:44 pm

If you take into consideration that we pretty much lead the nation in TOP, our defensive numbers really look bad! Now, if we get a D that can stop teams half the time they have the ball, look out! With that said, next year, we’ll have two D lineman, a LB, and a safety back that are injured and play heavily into the D mix, as well as a boatload of Frsh and RS frsh coming in. We may be a whole lot better next year, doggies-

Jaded Jacket

December 16th, 2009
2:45 pm

Injuries are no excuse. That’s what UGA said last year. It’s the coaching!

James Stephenson

December 16th, 2009
2:47 pm

Hey Malibu, it wasn.t getting to the outside. But the LBs are a problem, King split both of em on that 76 yard td run. Split and they did not even lay a hand on him, that should not have happen.

F-105 Thunderchief

December 16th, 2009
2:47 pm

I’m concerned, but did not know about the redshirts and the four-star committments on defense. So, I feel a bit better about things now.

Wrecker1

December 16th, 2009
2:48 pm

TECH doesn’t get the same break Ugag does. A player over there gets a hang-nail and it’s front page news. TECH lost major contributors at each level of the defense by the 3rd game of the year but there’s hardly a word spoken. We do have to get better but we also played undersized and inexperienced up front all year long.

Shane

December 16th, 2009
2:53 pm

but how long can a program subsist on offense alone?

Not very long usually but in the ACC who knows

Who CARES

December 16th, 2009
2:55 pm

GT IS IRLEVANT!!!

WOW

December 16th, 2009
2:55 pm

Its great to be a Georgia Bulldawg!!!!!

Daniel

December 16th, 2009
2:56 pm

We had injuries, but so did everyone else. CPJ needs to recruit better defensive players so we have some depth and also to make sure that the offense doesn’t slow down when we lose Nesbitt, Dwyer, Bay Bay, etc.

OneEyed Jack

December 16th, 2009
2:56 pm

With a month to prepare for our offense, Iowa wil be ready and tough.

Key to the game is will our defense show up and perform?

One Eyed

PS Isn’t it odd that our offense was like 2nd in nation in rushing, and only GT All American is Thomas, a pass catcher? Likewise, our defense was our weak link this year, and we have 2 defensive All Americans. Go figure…

Daniel

December 16th, 2009
2:57 pm

Can we stop with “in the ACC who knows” nonsense. The SEC has never won anything. Teams have. And when you start to root for a conference, it’s a sign your team is lacking.

GT hearts Warcraft

December 16th, 2009
2:58 pm

Take your place in the back row of football once again, NERDS!

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA(((30-24))HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

LOOKS LIKE IT COULD BE ANOTHER LLLLOOOOONNNGGGGG TIME BEFORE YOU ARE RELEVANT (not that you are now) AGAIN!!!! HAHAHAHAHA

Look at the bright side….You don’t need a defense in Warcraft….HAHA

Shane

December 16th, 2009
2:58 pm

Tech’s new mission: Find a defense to complement its offense

Bigger question is Who Cares.Its just ACC football people. Does AA baseball get this much attention?

PlayersPlay

December 16th, 2009
2:58 pm

MB, I don’t know if Coach Wommack is the answer for the defensive side of the ball but comparing uga to Tech’s defensive problems is not accurate. uga is littered with with 4-5 star recruits and could not get the job done on that side of the ball where Tech save Morgan and Burnett do not have any play makers. I have a hunch if you swapped players for each team Tech could of made a better showing out of those bunch of highly recruited athletes.

Shane

December 16th, 2009
2:59 pm

And when you start to root for a conference, it’s a sign your team is lacking.

Wrong. It shows that you know good football when you see it.

Daniel

December 16th, 2009
3:00 pm

No it doesn’t, Shane. It shows you root for rivals, which makes no sense. Do you root for the Saints because they’re in the NFC South or the Mets because they’re in the NL East.

You hitch your waggon to other schools in your conference because your school can’t represent.

Daniel

December 16th, 2009
3:01 pm

Was Wake Forest the SEC champ last year? They seemed to be able to handle Ole Miss but Florida couldn’t in the Swamp. But don’t let facts get in your way.

GT hearts Warcraft

December 16th, 2009
3:01 pm

ACC stands for:

A – almost
C – competitive
C – conference

THE PROBLEM ISN’T COACHING…ITS TOO MANY NERDS!!!

what’s that? WASHAUN AND CALEB ARE STTTIIILLLL RUNNING!

30-24 Dawgs - WE RUN THIS STATE

December 16th, 2009
3:01 pm

Caleb King JUST ran UNTOUCHED through the maggots’ secondary! Touchdown Georgia!

We Run This State!

Daniel

December 16th, 2009
3:02 pm

You don’t run anything. Except may be the local Buger King drive-thru.

EW

December 16th, 2009
3:04 pm

Wrecker-
Don’t know how Dog’s injury news being front page is what you call a “break”. News coverage reflects the stories they think people want to see and I guess they want to see more Dogs stuff?

OneEyed Jack- Yes GT had a dominant rushing attack, but when you split carries between so many backs, including Nesbitt, none of them have the numbers to warrant the AA status. Not to say they aren’t talented, but the offense splits up the production.

Jaded Jacket and Daniel- Exactly! It’s football, everyone has injuries. You have to build a team with depth to win consistently

GT hearts Warcraft

December 16th, 2009
3:04 pm

(((((((((((NERD ALERT)))))))))))
————-30-24————–

WE RUN THIS STATE!!!!! SORRY NERDS!!!!

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Shane

December 16th, 2009
3:04 pm

You hitch your waggon to other schools in your conference because your school can’t represent.

Wrong again. I think they represented the conference quite well in Atlanta when they ran all over the ACC chumps.

The SEC has always kept it in house and rooted for each other come bowl season. You obviously wouldnt understand that because your team plays in such a weak conference ( maybe the weakest in the history if the BCS )

Daniel

December 16th, 2009
3:06 pm

Right Shane. Auburn and Alabama make a habit of rooting for one-another. Again, don’t let facts get in your way.

Not Disappointed

December 16th, 2009
3:06 pm

Mark you don’t pull any punches. Tech or UGA. I have to respect you for this reason.

Ramblin Wreck!

Golden Tornado

December 16th, 2009
3:06 pm

Coach Johnson was quoted as saying either,”You can’t run against Iowa’s defense,” or, “It’s hard to run against them.” So what have we got? Is he going to have Nesbitt throw passes?

Daniel

December 16th, 2009
3:07 pm

And if the ACC is so horrible and Tech sucks so bad, why are you wasting your time posting on the blog?

Shane

December 16th, 2009
3:07 pm

Was Wake Forest the SEC champ last year? They seemed to be able to handle Ole Miss but Florida couldn’t in the Swamp. But don’t let facts get in your way.

Why would they be? Did they beat Florida head to head?

McD

December 16th, 2009
3:08 pm

Mark
Look at the ranking and how rivals determines them. It was very bizzare. You get a higher ranking the more players you have. Tech I think has 4 4 star and 5 3 star. Go look in the top 20 and you will see a team with 8 4 star and 9/10/11 3 star and they are ranked like 10th. Well if gt had 9 more spots available, they would be in the top 15. The way they rank them is stupid. Makes no sense.

Shane

December 16th, 2009
3:09 pm

And if the ACC is so horrible and Tech sucks so bad, why are you wasting your time posting on the blog?

Because its fun to pound the truth into your otherwise ” we are great blah blah blah ” heads

EW

December 16th, 2009
3:09 pm

Question for the GT ppl. Everyone has said that the offense will get even better once CPJ has “his” guys out there. Nesbitt wasn’t one of “his” guys but obviously he and Dwyer were the leaders of that offense. So, do you think that CPJ will be able to get “his” guy in there to be better than Nesbitt? Or did he benefit ( I hesitate to call it luck) from having Nesbitt in the system already? From what I have seen of Jaybo, I think the QB position will be the hardest position to fill for CPJ. GT definitely benefited from JN’s toughness and ability to keep getting back up after taking hits. The offense was NOT the same when he was out against UGA.

exNFLplayer

December 16th, 2009
3:09 pm

The defense is obvious Mark. But if PJ doesn’t develop the kind of short/medium passing game that Navy displays he just might hit the wall offensively too. Short and medium passing falls under the category of ball control and move the chains. PJ could have used some of that in the UGA game as opposed to the chuck and duck he’s had for 2 years now.

Daniel

December 16th, 2009
3:10 pm

No, but the point is that you talk about how weak the ACC is but a pretty crummy team for our conference didn’t seem to have any trouble with a team that beat your champ.

The point is that if your conference was sooooo strong, presumably a team that beat the champ would not have any trouble at all with and also-ran in the weak old ACC.

Up with the white and gold

December 16th, 2009
3:10 pm

2010 will be a very small class for GT Mark hence the low ranking. Dawgs it’s time top pack your bags for Shreveport – don’t waste your time on a Tech blog .

GT hearts Warcraft

December 16th, 2009
3:10 pm

What do tech students use for Birth Control? Their personalities.

CFB Fan

December 16th, 2009
3:11 pm

Daniel,

When was the last time GT represented anything.

The ACC (All Cupcake Conference) is a JOKE and no one outside of the people on North Avenue even care.

Look at the TV ratings for the State runner-up Championship game; Look at the empty seats in your high school stadium.

You are IRRELEVANT!!!!

Face It!

Daniel

December 16th, 2009
3:11 pm

We (or at least I) am not saying we’re so great. Georgia pounded the snot out of us on the ground this year. I freely admit it. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t have a great year.

Daniel

December 16th, 2009
3:12 pm

CFB Fan, if you want to have a rational discussion, I’m all ears. If you want act like a child, I’m sure there’s a playground near you.

Shane

December 16th, 2009
3:12 pm

Mark
Look at the ranking and how rivals determines them. It was very bizzare. You get a higher ranking the more players you have. Tech I think has 4 4 star and 5 3 star. Go look in the top 20 and you will see a team with 8 4 star and 9/10/11 3 star and they are ranked like 10th. Well if gt had 9 more spots available, they would be in the top 15. The way they rank them is stupid. Makes no sense.

Is Tech ranked by anyone in recruiting. Who would want to play for that Mickey Mouse offense and a jerk of a coach. News Flash for you. Running the spread option in college is not going to get you ready for the NFL. The top players will NEVER come to Tech with that offense in place. The top players are wanting to get to the next level not get beat up running the option that they will never see at the next level.

ESPNU had UGA 4th in recruiting.

I couldnt find Tech anywhere.

Daniel

December 16th, 2009
3:13 pm

CFB Fan, I’d say we represnted pretty well last year in Athens, no?

exNFLplayer

December 16th, 2009
3:15 pm

There is no doubt that PJ reaped the benefit of Gailey’s players. The question is will he have the same success with his own. Only time will tell.

Shane

December 16th, 2009
3:15 pm

2010 will be a very small class for GT Mark hence the low ranking. Dawgs it’s time top pack your bags for Shreveport

Weve already packed. Get to play more SEC football. Ill bet the Independence bowl with a high profile SEC team ( Georgia ) will get better ratings than the Orange Bowl.

EW

December 16th, 2009
3:15 pm

I think if anyone tried to actually discuss football on here I would die.