Groh wants quick reactions from Ga. Tech defense

Al Groh is waiting for the phone to ring for his Georgia Tech


Groh, the former Virginia coach, has installed a 3-4 defense at

No. 16 Georgia Tech, which opens its season on Saturday against

South Carolina State.

The first-year defensive coordinator says the Yellow Jackets

understand the defense and provide all the correct answers when

asked about assignments in a classroom setting.

But he wants more.

Groh says he’s looking forward to the time when his players

prove they have mastered the 3-4 scheme with instinctive play on

the field.

”Sometimes a player can show up well in the drills and develop

a technique that is not showing up in the scrimmages,” Groh said.

”So I asked them, ‘When your phone rings, how much do you have to

think about what you need to do? You’ve just done it so many times.

When we tell you what the drill is and what the read should be, you

do very well. When you have to react to it, it’s still not quite


Groh said it takes time for a defense to become so comfortable

in a new scheme that its play becomes instinctive. His defenses

usually need a year to master the 3-4 scheme, he said.

”We’re trying to speed the process up,” Groh said. ”Every

time we have done this installation, we do a lot better the second

year than the first.”

A makeover on defense was needed even after Georgia Tech

finished 11-3 and won the Atlantic Coast Conference championship in

2009. Coach Paul Johnson fired defensive coordinator Dave Wommack

three days after the Yellow Jackets’ 24-14 Orange Bowl loss to


Georgia Tech gave up 30 or more points in six games last season,

including a 30-24 home loss to in-state rival Georgia to end the

regular season.

While some fans called for a new defensive scheme, Johnson said

he just wanted better results, no matter the scheme.

”The one thing we want to hang our hat on and we’ve tried to

establish here is that we play hard and we’re tough,” Johnson said

Tuesday. ”If we do that, we’ll be OK.”

Johnson had a blunt assessment of the 2009 defense.

”We weren’t very good,” he said. ”Sometimes when you’re not

playing good everybody wants to blame the scheme. Sometimes you’re

just not real good. They might be better than you. So we need to

play better.”

Georgia Tech ranked 58th in the nation with its average of 24.8

points allowed last season.

”Sometimes the frustration level set on them last year,”

Johnson said. ”We’ll find out how they handle that the first time

somebody makes a few first downs and drives it down the field. Does

their head go down or does somebody get ticked off and say, ‘We’ve

got to stop them. This is not happening.’ That’s what we


Groh, 66, was 59-53 in nine years as Virginia’s coach and was

fired after a 3-9 record in 2009. He was 26-40 as Wake Forest’s

coach in the 1980s and was 9-7 as the New York Jets’ coach in 2000,

his only year as an NFL head coach.

Groh was an NFL assistant under Bill Parcells with the New York

Giants and New England Patriots.

South Carolina State coach Buddy Pough said Groh’s Georgia Tech

defense ”is a bit of a mystery for us.”

Pough said he knows Groh as ”a 50 guy since he was with the


The 50 defense featured five defensive linemen and two

linebackers. The 3-4 can provide a similar look when the two

outside linebackers line up close to the three linemen.

”He’s always been that kind of style guy,” Pough said. ”You

never know how he’s changed over the years as he’s been a head

coach, and how he’ll go about implementing his style of defense

with the type of guys he has with Georgia Tech. We may have to

adjust on the fly.”

Georgia Tech linebacker Brad Jefferson, voted a team captain,

said the defense is close to feeling comfortable in the new


”We’re getting to that point. We’re still working on it,”

Jefferson said last week. ”We’re going to have to clutch up and

get down to it. But we’re getting the feel of it.”