Georgia Tech to run simpler defensive system

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Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson saw his team struggle on defense last season, giving up 28.3 points per game.  FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson saw his team struggle on defense last season, giving up 28.3 points per game.

ATLANTA — Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson turned to Ted Roof, a member of the Yellow Jackets’ “Black Watch” defenses in the mid-1980s – to try to fix the team’s glaring weakness.

So far, so good.

With spring practices and the first three days of fall work behind them, Georgia Tech’s defenders sound as if they’re embracing Roof’s simpler system.

That’s a good thing because on the way to allowing 28.3 points per game last season, fourth-most at Georgia Tech since 1948, the Yellow Jackets were a confused mess on defense in a 7-7 season that left them 21-19 since winning the ACC title in ’09.

“It’s a lot easier to comprehend,” said senior cornerback Louis Young, one of eight defensive starters returning for the Yellow Jackets. “We’re not thinking as much; we’re just going out and playing. I’m excited to prove people wrong about the ‘D’.”

It’s easy to understand skeptics. Georgia Tech went 9-4 in Johnson’s first season, in ’08, and 11-3 the next season although those wins and that championship were later vacated by NCAA sanction.

A three-game losing streak last season was the worst skid since.

Georgia Tech allowed totals of 609, 510 and 601 yards and 42, 49 and 47 points consecutively to Miami, Middle Tennessee State and Clemson. That prompted the midseason firing of defensive coordinator Al Groh.

Roof, an Atlanta native and former Yellow Jacket linebacker (1982-’85) and defensive coordinator (‘99-’01), is installing a 4-3 system that relies on fewer audibles and adjustments than Groh’s NFL-styled 3-4.

Roof isn’t one to get technical, or make guarantees. He could care less that the Jackets were picked by ACC media to finish fourth in the Coastal division.

“I feel good about where we are. I feel good about where we’re going,” he said at a recent media gathering. “It’d be easy to . . . say we’re going to do this and we’re going to do that. I’m not into that. I want to go to work.”

There is more material for Roof to work with than in ‘99, when he inherited a Tech young roster in his first job as a coordinator. Those Yellow Jackets allowed 30.3 points per game.

Defensive end Jeremiah Attouchu, who has moved from outside linebacker, Young, and safeties Isaiah Johnson and Jemea Thomas are seniors with pro aspirations. Linebackers Quayshawn Nealy, Brandon Watts and Jabari Hunt-Days all have considerable experience as well.

“We’re definitely more free,” Attaochu said. “Coach Roof is a lot simpler. We know our talent. We played with USC (a 21-7 Georgia Tech win in the Sun Bowl) and we played with Florida State (a 21-15 loss in the ACC Championship Game) - teams that get four- and five-star recruits.

“There’s no doubt we have talent; it’s just about putting us into position to use it . . . that’s why coach has me at defensive end, to rush the passer.”

There is competition for playing time on the line beyond Attaochu, and Johnson’s return to safety is being delayed after knee surgery.

More importantly, the Yellow Jackets’ attitude has been made over through simplification.

“I feel like we’re coming together and the whole atmosphere around the defense has changed,” Nealy said. “The first thing coach Roof says is NPH <0x2014> Nobody Plays Harder. He says, ‘You don’t have to have a 4.4, or be the biggest or the strongest, but you can always give effort.

“Effort comes from within. It’s within your heart.’ It’s definitely going to come down to defense and how we play. We’re looking forward to turning people’s heads.”

JACKETS’ DEFENSE WAS A WRECK IN ’12

Georgia Tech’s defense gave up an average of 374 yards per game during its 7-7 season. In 14 games, opponents were averaging 4.3 yards per rush and 12 yards per reception while allowing just over 28 points a game.

OPPONENT RUSHING PASSING TOTAL OFF. RESULT

Virginia Tech 96 230 326 L, 20-17

Presbyterian 145 98 243 W, 59-3

Virginia 98 199 297 W, 56-20

Miami 173 436 609 L, 42-36

Middle Tennessee 264 246 510 L, 49-28

Clemson 204 397 601 L, 47-31

Boston College 32 264 296 W, 37-17

Brigham Young 183 228 411 L, 41-17

Maryland 144 115 259 W, 33-13

North Carolina 147 350 497 W, 68-50

Duke 77 198 275 W, 42-24

Georgia 164 215 379 L, 42-10

Florida State 194 134 328 L, 21-15

Southern Cal 98 107 205 W, 21-7

Source: ramblinwreck.com


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