Georgia, Georgia Tech Looking For Improvement On Defense With New Hires

The ACC and SEC BlogSenior Analyst IApril 24, 2010

ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 28:  Stephen Hill #5 of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets is tackled by Demarcus Dobbs #58 of the Georgia Bulldogs at Bobby Dodd Stadium on November 28, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Georgia Bulldogs and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets both hired new defensive coordinators this offseason.

One move was expected after a disappointing 8-5 season where many blamed the decline of the defense over the past few years. The other was a little more of a surprise, considering an 11-3 record.

Georgia upset Georgia Tech by holding the Yellow Jackets to just 24 points and 205 yards rushing. A far cry from the 45 points and 409 yards rushing a year ago. But that performance was not enough to save Willie Martinez's job along with two other defensive assistants who were dismissed by head coach Mark Richt the following week.

UGA tried to lure some of the top defensive names in college to Athens. John Chavis of LSU said no thanks as did Bud Foster from Virginia Tech. The Bulldog Nation thought they had their guy when they approached former player Kirby Smart, the DC at Alabama. But Smart also spurned Georgia, and stayed with Nick Saban at Alabama.

The Bulldogs finally landed their guy in Todd Grantham, the defensive line coach at the Dallas Cowboys.

The Yellow Jackets decision to fire Dave Wommack was a little more surprising, but looking more into the statistics you saw a defense that was living off the success of the offense. Wommack's defense did not force a punt in several games this year including the Georgia loss.

Georgia Tech's search was a little more low key and focused. Head Coach Paul Johnson brought former Virginia head coach Al Groh in during preparation for the Orange Bowl and passed it off as a farewell tour for the Cavalier coach.

Groh also considered the Miami Dolphins DC job, but decided to stay in the college game saying he like the atmosphere of the college game.

Both coordinators will be installing a 3-4 defense in their new jobs in hopes of improving woeful units last year. Both guys have had successes and failures along the way.

Grantham has been a position coach for some of the best units in the NFL recently, including the Dallas Cowboys that were second in the league in points allowed last season. Before the Cowboys, he was DC for the Cleveland Browns for three seasons before being fired.

Groh was a LB coach on the 1990 Super Bowl winning New York Giants under Bill Parcells. Groh spent 13 seasons with the Big Tuna following him to New England and then to the Jets. But Groh was never able to sustain success at his alma mater Virginia, finishing 59-53 in nine seasons.

I have no doubt both guys will improve their defenses in the first year, but most the success will come down to talent and experience.

The Bulldogs lost some of their top defensive players from a year ago including their leading tackler Rennie Curran. Also gone are two defensive lineman and safety Reshad Jones. But UGA has recruited very well over the last few years.

Georgia Tech the ACC defensive player of the year and first round draft pick Derrick Morgan as well as ball hawking safety Morgan Burnett.

The biggest challenge in Athens is finding a viable pass rusher an area Georgia has really struggled in the last few seasons. Groh's biggest challenge in Atlanta will be finding that all important NT that can control the line of scrimmage. Quality depth on the defensive line has been an issue at Tech for years.

Groh knows many of his opponents he will face this upcoming season well, but they also know him.

Grantham may have to struggle with a new QB on the other side of the ball, while Groh will have the luxury of having a third year starter whose offense has improved each of the last two seasons.

I think both are good hires, but the final judgement on who is the better hire will come on the Saturday after Thanksgiving in Sanford Stadium.

This article and others are also available at The ACC & SEC Blog


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