UPDATED: After yielding 40+ points for the third straight week, Al Groh was dismissed by Georgia Tech on Monday, October 8th.
The Yellow Jackets defense has a lot of problems so it is important to find the right guy because the new DC's boss does not have a whole lot of time to get the unit turned around.
Here are the two big problems I see with Georgia Tech's defense today.
1. Lack of talentYou could chalk up the 609 yards to Miami as having an off day and playing a talented team. Giving up over 500 (I am not going to bother to look up the exact total because at this point it does not matter) to Middle Tennessee State proves the Miami game is not an aberration.
When you lack talent, you have to recruit better. Easier said than done, but it has to be done to get significant improvement. And you don't make a coordinator change without expecting significant improvement.
The new Defensive Coordinator must be a good recruiter.
2. Lack of motivationOne player on defense in Saturday's loss to MTSU looked like they cared. #14 CB Jemea Thomas. Yes, Georgia Tech is going to struggle to get more talent than UGA, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Miami but if you don't have players giving 100% then the Yellow Jackets don't have a chance of winning against the Middle Tennessee State's either.
The new Defensive Coordinator has to be able to motivate players
Beyond those two things, everything else is just noise. You can use a 3-4, 4-3, 5-3, 3-3-5 it does not matter if you don't have talent and can't motivate players. Al Groh's 3-4 scheme is not the problem. It's Al Groh and the players.
Now that the parameters have been set here are some potential candidates:
1. Lance Thompson, Assistant Coach/Linebackers Coach, AlabamaThompson certainly meets the criteria for ability to recruit as he was named national recruiter of the year in 2008 by Rivals.com at Alabama. That class was the foundation for winning two BCS titles in three seasons. People who don't believe in recruiting rankings at the team level have teams who don't recruit well and don't win big. See a Georgia Tech fan with his head buried in the sand as an example.
Thompson also has strong ties to Georgia Tech spending 1992-1998 and 2001 in various roles, including recruiting coordinator from 1995-1998. Those four classes helped return Georgia Tech to a competitive position in the ACC and three straight wins over UGA.
In that 2008 Alabama class, Thompson was listed as the lead recruiter for Julio Jones, Jerrel Harris, and Mark Barron among two 5 stars and six 4 stars.
While at Tennessee, Thompson reeled in A.J. Johnson and Brian Randolph two players from Georgia that Tech coveted.
The Alabama assistant is a native of Riverdale, Ga to boot so he has plenty of local ties.
I have no proof that Thompson can motivate players, but I don't think a coach who spent time with Nick Saban at LSU and two different stints at Alabama is a poor motivator.
Since first posting this, I have received feedback from Georgia Tech "Insiders" who say Thompson is a well known cheater on the recruiting trail and pushed the envelope while at Tech in the 90s. To this I say, why hasn't he been caught or a rival turned him in yet?
2. Odell Haggins, Defensive Line Coach, Florida StateHaggins gained the commitment of a 5 star defensive tackle and two other 4 star defenders this past season. Anyone who has watched Georgia Tech's defense this year or any of the past three seasons knows the defensive line play has been below BCS level.
If you cannot get penetration on the running game or pressure on the QB passing you have little chance of being effective on defense.
Haggins played at FSU and has been there 19 years, but you would have to think he would like a shot at moving up the chain. He is certainly more of a risk than a Lance Thompson, but you cannot doubt the man's ability to recruit.
3. Lance Anderson, Linebackers/Recruiting Coordinator, StanfordAnderson was instrumental in recruiting the best offensive line class in the nation last February as well as well several talented defenders.
In addition to his on field duties, Anderson also served as the Admissions liaison at Stanford so he knows how to recruit at a high level with academic restrictions.
Anderson came to Stanford with Jim Harbaugh when he took over the Cardinal.
I think Jim Harbaugh is the best coach in football, college or pro. If Anderson can bring 1/10th of the mental and physical toughness Stanford has to Georgia Tech it would be an improvement over the current situation.
The one major knock against Anderson would be lack of local recruiting ties.
4. Giff Smith, Defensive Line Coach, Buffalo BillsA name very familiar with Georgia Tech fans as he helped land the 2007 class that won Paul Johnson's first 20 games and an ACC Championship in 2009.
Another good feature of Smith is he was defensive line coach for Tech as well. This is by far the weakest area of the current defense.
Good recruiter? Check. Local Ties? Check. Motivator? Tech's defensive line looked a whole lot better when he was coaching them.
But just like 2007, Yellow Jackets have to root for Chan Gailey to be fired as Smith is unlikely to leave Buffalo unless that happens.
5. Rodney Garner, Defensive Line Coach/Recruiting Coordinator, UGAYou will not find a person with more recruiting ties in the state of Georgia than Rodney Garner. No one.
Georgia Tech fans will moan that Garner will put them on probation.
I don't see why a guy who has not had one major violation in Athens would suddenly have them in Atlanta.
Other teams have tried to pluck Garner away as a position coach only for UGA to give him raise after raise and even adding an Assistant Coach title. To my knowledge though no one has offered him a DC role. So while Garner may have to take a pay cut, the ability to move up the chain and closer to a coveted head coaching position could be enticing.
Garner definitely falls into the if you can't beat'em, join'em category.
I realize I went very heavy towards the recruiting angle for Georgia Tech's new Defensive Coordinator.
This is because I believe defense is much more about Jimmys and Joes than X's and O's. You cannot scheme your way to a good defense. You need big, strong, fast athletes and the best way to get those is recruiting.
Like Thompson, I have also received feedback about Garner's recruiting methods. I point to the fact that he has not had one major recruiting violation while at UGA. If you have evidence Garner has cheated, I encourage you to send it to me (either in comments or to my email address in the upper right hand side).
Georgia Tech fans: Which one of these candidates excites you the most? Who did I miss? Do you have confidence Paul Johnson will realize recruiting needs to improve?