April 27, 2010
By Jon Cooper
When Derrick Morgan announced he was foregoing his senior season to enter the NFL Draft — neither a surprise move nor a regrettable one for Morgan, who was selected 16th overall by the Tennessee Titans — Georgia Tech knew the defense and especially the defensive line would have to undergo a big-time adjustment for the 2010 season.
“I actually like it better with the 3-4,” said Walls, the leading returning tackler amongst defensive linemen, having chalked up 25 tackles (10 solo), along with 3.0 tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks last season. “The defensive line’s technique, mine for sure, is definitely almost completely different because now it’s more of reading what’s in front of you, using your hands and trying to defeat the block after shooting the gap.”
Walls feels the formation is certainly a better fit for his individual style of play.
“I think it is a better fit because I feel like I can move a little better,” he said. “I have more of a chance against a guy head up, one-on-one than I do drawing a double-team. I just feel like I have a better shot, and I’m able to move more.”
The unit was unhappy with the way opposing offenses moved against them on the ground last season, as the Jackets finished eighth in the ACC in rushing defense, allowing 151.6 yards per game, allowing 4.9 yards per carry — only Florida State allowed more at 5.4 yards per carry. The inability to slow the run came home to roost in the final regular season game against Georgia and in the ACC Championship Game against Clemson, when the defense allowed a combined 662 yards.
Enter Groh. With over 40 years of coaching experience on the pro and collegiate level he has earned his stripes as a defensive mastermind. He was linebackers coach on the 1990 New York Giants Super Bowl champions, a team that implemented the 3-4, was part of the AFC Champion New England Patriots in 1996 and the 1998 New York Jets, who played for the AFC Championship. He’s also been a successful head coach, the last nine years at Virginia.
Walls stated that the game plan has been well received by the players and believes Tech’s fans will buy in as well.
It should be noted that the T-Day Game last Saturday was something of a test-run for the new system and may not offer a true indication of the effectiveness of the defense, as senior d-linemen Ben Anderson and Robert Hall didn’t participate because of injuries.
But the game did provide the unit an opportunity to test itself against as high-powered a ground game as they’ll likely see at any point during the season.
“Last year is last year,” he said. “This year we haven’t played one game so I would say it’s a completely different team. I guess it is motivation but you just have to move on and keep working.”