Posted: 1:24 pm Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

How talented was Tech’s 2012 defense? 

By Ken Sugiura

By the NFL’s evaluation, at least, the 2012 Georgia Tech defense was pretty stout.

Of the 11 starters, all nine players who have completed their Tech careers were either drafted (three) or were signed as undrafted free agents (six). That doesn’t even include a seventh player, Euclid Cummings, who primarily backed up at defensive end and signed an undrafted free-agent deal with Tampa Bay.

Further, it’s hardly a stretch to surmise that the other two starters who have yet to finish their careers – Jabari Hunt-Days and Quayshawn Nealy – will themselves get a chance at the NFL. So could 2012 backups Adam Gotsis, Jamal Golden and others.

A few caveats: Getting drafted or signed to a rookie free-agent deal is not the final judgment on a player’s worth. A-back Robert Godhigh did not reach a deal Saturday, though his agent was hopeful that he will get a shot with the Falcons. It would be hard to argue that he was not one of the six best players, let alone seniors, on last year’s team.

The NFL, like college teams, gets it wrong plenty, and often players are signed more on potential than for production in college. Further, the games are different, and a player may not necessarily “translate” to the NFL level.

Also, getting drafted carries far more significance than getting signed as an undrafted free agent, and getting drafted early even more so, and it would obviously mean more if it were six draftees and three undrafted rather than the other way around.

Still, getting signed or drafted into the NFL – whose teams scour the country and collectively commit dozens of scouts to finding the players deemed most capable of playing football at a professional level – is obviously a strong endorsement.

So, what can be said about the 2012 defense? It didn’t play like a team with 10 or more players that would sign NFL contracts. It ranked No. 43 in total defense (374.0 yards per game), 74th in yards per play (5.69) and tied for 65th in scoring defense (28.3 points per game). As a result, defensive coordinator Al Groh was fired after the sixth game of the season after the Jackets gave up 40 points in three consecutive games for the first time in school history.

Under interim coordinator Charles Kelly, the unit improved, in some ways decisively. The team gave up 30.2 points per game in the first six games and 26.9 in the last eight. Third-down conversion rate fell from 50.9 to 38.2 percent. The defense sacked the opposing quarterback once every 12.5 plays in the final eight games after a rate of one per 22.5 plays in the first six.

It was not a 180-degree change. BYU, North Carolina and Georgia all scored north of 40 (the Cougars and Tar Heels scored on defensive touchdowns). But overall the performance was better and more indicative of the talent on the roster. (For what it’s worth, of the UNC starting 11 on offense, five were drafted and three more signed undrafted free-agent deals. That includes two top-10 picks, tight end Eric Ebron and guard Jonathan Cooper. Of the remaining three, two are still in school and the third appears to be receiving a tryout.)

Of recent defenses, from a pure draft standpoint, the 2008 defense would easily get the nod over the 2012 unit. It had an eventual first-round pick (defensive end Derrick Morgan), two third-rounders (end Michael Johnson and safety Morgan Burnett) and two seventh-rounders (tackles Darryl Richard and Vance Walker). Defensive backs Jahi Word-Daniels and Mario Butler and linebacker Brad Jefferson were signed as undrafted free agents. That’s five draftees and three undrafted free agents, including three in the first three rounds.

The 2012 Tech defensive starters

DE Izaan Cross – signed with the Buffalo Bills as an UDFA in 2013, was briefly on the practice squad

DT T.J. Barnes – signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars as an UDFA in 2013, was cut, signed to the New York Jets practice squad, now on Jets roster

DE Emmuel Dieke – signed with New York Giants as UDFA Saturday

OLB Jeremiah Attaochu – drafted in second round by San Diego Chargers Friday

ILB Quayshawn Nealy – three-year starter going into senior season

ILB Jabari Hunt-Days –two-year starter, but academically ineligible

OLB Brandon Watts – drafted in seventh round by Minnesota Saturday

CB Rod Sweeting – signed with New Orleans Saints as UDFA, made roster

CB Louis Young – signed with Denver Broncos as UDFA Saturday

S Jemea Thomas – drafted in sixth round by New England Patriots Saturday

S Isaiah Johnson – two-year starter going into senior season after redshirting last season (ACL surgery)

10 comments
LongBeachJacket
LongBeachJacket

Yes, in retrospective, there has been talent on defense.  Looking at this year.  Paul Davis had a solid year last year at LB.  Quayshan Nealy is a proven commodity.  If Tyler Marcodes is good (he has good size for LB  6'4" 245lb) the LB corps should be strong.  Gotsis is proven on D-Line.  Others are unknowns. A few of them need to step up.  There is also adequate talent (and depth) in the secondary.  That said, if the front 4 cannot control the line and create pressure, even very, very talented DBs won't be able to hold coverages "forever".  That is a must.  Hopeful that Mike Pelton can find a core of 3-4 other really strong players around Gotsis.  That will be the key.  Roof's scheme will be solid.  Success will hinge on the D-Line.  They don't have to be dominant, but they MUST hold their own and "win" tactical and position battles at the line of scrimmage.  Hoping for good things from Whitehead, maybe Frosh Keshun Freeman and, maybe? maybe? Kallon?  and others ???

POAD2014
POAD2014

It wasn't the recruiting it was the coaching?

Wow some of us have said that for awhile.

I guess WnE's head exploded since all Tech recruits are terrible.

CPJ has a D coach that should now help keep the score down. CPJ has to get the Offense running smooth now and I think we will be fine.

gatechclassof95
gatechclassof95

Not very talented if you look at how we defended the pass and played against BYU and Clemson.

forexbomb
forexbomb

Time will tell....  Our best player OLB Jeremiah was All American has the best shot.. But hey, there are so many variables to success in the NFL..  The right team, right coach, having the talent to make it happen...  If in fact these 11 guys have careers in the NFL, then I would defer to our coaching as the issue at GT...  We shall see soon enough.

GeorgeStein
GeorgeStein

The issue with the 2012 team, I think, was that they were not playing a system that allowed their athleticism to show. I have said several times that the NFL doesn't draft statistics, they draft tools, and Johnson's teams have been heavy on (to borrow a baseball term) toolsy guys. Roof's charter has to be to turn those raw materials into a more complete product. He did a better job of that last year, but we still dropped three games where we scored 30 points, so the opportunity for improvement remains. I hope they are able to get that fixed.

D-Sheets
D-Sheets

How talented was Tech’s 2012 defense?


Ken, are you asking all the "real" GT folk or Mike Banning?   FYI, with Mike it's a rhetorical question, LOL!


It does present a poor indictment of Al Groh's coaching ability though.  And I was one GT fan who thought AG was going to be good - yikes.


RocketCity_Jacket
RocketCity_Jacket

What killed us on defense was our inability to stop the pass. We were pretty good in stopping the run but every decent quarterback that we faced drilled us with the pass. I can't believe that Louis Young signed with anyone. 

Our offense sucked because our prize QB was afraid of getting hit and played that way. CPJ should've taken him out of many a game and let the backups (any of which played the option significantly better than VL) operate the offense. I see the offense winning a lot more games this year without VL and using JT & TB in a platoon system that would keep the opposing defenses guessing every play.


GTBob
GTBob

I have always argued that we have had some defensive talent. They just needed better coaching. Ill even argue it again for next year. People seem to think we are going to have a huge dropoff because we lost Jemea and Sneezy. I don't think so. I think we take another step up.

Born2Buzz
Born2Buzz

Another indictment of the folly that was Al Grohnnnnn.  CPJ's worst decision ever, even worse than the reverse pass play against Ole Miss, and that is saying something.