Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson dishes on past defensive coordinators

August 4, 2016 Atlanta - Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets head coach Paul Johnson smiles during the first day of practice at Rose Bowl Field in Georgia Tech campus on Thursday, August 4, 2016. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

August 4, 2016 Atlanta – Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets head coach Paul Johnson smiles during the first day of practice at Rose Bowl Field in Georgia Tech campus on Thursday, August 4, 2016. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

If you didn’t listen to the podcast done by colleagues Jeff Schultz and Zach Klein with special guest Paul Johnson, you should. To do so click here.

As part of the expansive conversation, Johnson provided some insight on the defensive coordinators that he has worked with since taking over Georgia Tech for the 2008 season.

Johnson has built a reputation as being on tough on defensive coordinators, a reputation that he thinks is unfair.

Anyway, among the tidbits he shared:

Johnson wanted to hire Ellis Johnson as his first defensive coordinator at Tech. Johnson had just finished a stint as Mississippi State’s defensive coordinator from 2004-07. Johnson implied that there wasn’t enough money to pay for Johnson, who instead went to South Carolina.

Johnson hired Dave Wommack, who stayed at Tech for two seasons. During the season in which Tech won the ACC title in 2009, Johnson said that defensive players were coming to him asking for help with Wommack. He didn’t elaborate what kind of help they were asking for. Johnson said he approached Wommack about shifting from defensive coordinator to coaching “slots,” which I assume means cornerbacks or could mean A-backs. Wommack declined. The Yellow Jackets ranked No. 25 in FBS in total defense in 2008, and fell to 54th in 2009.

Al Groh followed Wommack, and that hire looked good on paper but was a disaster in terms of results. Johnson said Groh is brilliant at defense and can break down film better than anybody, but it seems the players didn’t have the time to devote to understanding the complex schemes. Tech fell to 64th in total defense in 2010, improved to 44th in 2011, and then imploded in 2012. Through the first six games the Yellow Jackets gave up 20 (Virginia Tech), 3 (Presbyterian), 20 (Virginia), 42 (Miami), 49 (Middle Tennessee State) and 47 (Clemson) points. It was the first time in school history that Tech had given up at least 40 points in three consecutive games. It was announced on the Monday after the loss to Clemson that Groh had been relieved of his duties.

Charles Kelly, whom Johnson describes as one of his best friends, became the interim defensive coordinator. Under Kelly, Tech gave up 17, 41, 13, 50, 24, 42, 21 and 7 points. Tech finished 43rd in total defense and 65th in scoring defense with an average of 28.29 points per game. Johnson said Kelly would have become Tech’s defensive coordinator, but he accepted a position at Florida State.

Next came Ted Roof. Johnson said he thinks Roof is doing a good job.


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