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Georgia Tech Adds Three to Defensive Staff

THE FLATS – Highlighted by new defensive coordinator Tyler Santucci, Georgia Tech football has officially added three assistant coaches to the defensive side of the ball, head coach Brent Key announced on Saturday. In addition to Santucci, who will coach the Yellow Jackets’ linebackers, the new defensive assistants include outside linebackers/edge coach Kyle Pope and defensive line coach Jess Simpson.

“We’re really excited to welcome Tyler, Kyle and Jess to our staff and the Georgia Tech family,” Key said. “A lot of time and consideration was put into these hires because we were committed to finding the right fits for Georgia Tech football and our student-athletes. These three outstanding coaches fit the makeup of our staff as great teachers and recruiters with championship pedigree, and I’m looking forward to them working with our student-athletes.”

After successful stints as defensive coordinator at Atlantic Coast Conference rival Duke and co-defensive coordinator at Texas A&M, Tyler Santucci joins Georgia Tech’s staff as defensive coordinator/linebackers coach.

In one season at Duke (2023), Santucci directed the ACC’s top-ranked scoring defense, allowing just 19.0 points per game, which was good for 16th nationally. The Blue Devils also ranked among the nation’s top 50 in rushing defense, passing defense, total defense, tackles for loss, third-down defense, fourth-down defense and red-zone defense. Duke allowed a total of just 10 points in a pair of wins over teams that finished the season in the top 25 – No. 20 Clemson (28-7) and No. 21 NC State (24-3) – and finished 8-5 overall after a 17-10 win over Troy in the 2023 Birmingham Bowl.

For his role in directing the ACC’s top scoring defense, Santucci was a nominee for the 2023 Broyles Award, which honors college football’s top assistant coach.

Prior to his lone season at Duke, Santucci spent three seasons at Texas A&M (2020-22), serving as linebackers coach for all three seasons and as co-defensive coordinator in his final campaign with the Aggies in 2022. As co-defensive coordinator, where he direct the nation’s No. 1 pass defense (156.2 ypg) and a top 25 scoring defense (20.7 ppg). The Aggies also ranked among the top 10 nationally in red-zone defense and top 20 in interceptions and pass efficiency defense with Santucci as co-DC. In his three seasons at A&M, the Aggies won 22 games, including nine during the Covid-19-shortened 2020 campaign, when they finished 9-1 overall and ranked No. 4 in the nation.

In addition to the last four seasons at Duke and Texas A&M, Santucci has also coached linebackers at Wake Forest (2019) and Texas State (2016). His experience also includes two seasons as a defensive analyst at Notre Dame (2017) and A&M (2018), two seasons as a graduate assistant at Wake (2014-15) and four seasons on the staff at his alma mater, Stony Brook, first as a graduate assistant (2010-11), then as the Seawolves’ safeties (2012) and defensive line (2013) coach.

In all, he’s helped lead teams to bowl games in six of the last seven seasons.

Santucci was a standout linebacker at Stony Brook from 2006-09, finishing his playing career with 284 tackles, 30.5 tackles for loss and five interceptions. He was an all-Big South Conference selection as a junior (second team) and senior (first team), and was named Big South Defensive Player of the Year and second-team Associated Press NCAA Division I FCS all-America as a senior in 2009. In 2013, he was named to the Big South’s first all-decade team. He graduated from Stony Brook with a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 2010.

Santucci and his wife, Arielle, have a daughter, Liana.

THE SANTUCCI FILE
Personal
Hometown: New Kensington, Pa.
Family: Wife – Arielle; Child – Liana
Alma Mater: Stony Brook, 2010

Playing Experience
2006-10: Stony Brook (LB)

Coaching Experience
2010-11: Stony Brook (Graduate Assistant)
2012: Stony Brook (Safeties)
2013: Stony Brook (Defensive Line)
2014-15: Wake Forest (Graduate Assistant)
2016: Texas State (Linebackers)
2017: Notre Dame (Defensive Analyst)
2018: Texas A&M (Defensive Analyst)
2019: Wake Forest (Linebackers)
2020-21: Texas A&M (Linebackers)
2022: Texas A&M (Co-Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers)
2023: Duke (Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers)
2024: Georgia Tech (Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers)

Kyle Pope, who has helped his teams earn seven-straight bowl berths, comes to Georgia Tech as outside linebackers/edge coach.

Pope spent the past four seasons (2020-23) as defensive line coach at Memphis, which included being elevated to defensive run game coordinator in his final season with the Tigers. In his four seasons at Memphis, the Tigers earned four bowl berths and won all three of their postseason games that were played (2020 Montgomery Bowl, 2022 First Responder Bowl and 2023 Liberty Bowl – the 2021 Hawai’i Bowl was canceled due to Covid-19).

In 2023, Pope helped lead the Tigers to an impressive 10-3 campaign, capped by a Liberty Bowl victory over Iowa State. He coached second-team all-American Athletic Conference defensive lineman Jaylon Allen and helped direct a unit ranked among the top 25 nationally in third- and fourth-down conversion defense.

In addition to helping Memphis go undefeated in bowl games, Pope coached a total of four defensive linemen that earned all-AAC recognition, highlighted by Allen, who was an honorable mention in 2022 before earning second-team honors in ’23, and O’Bryan Goodson, who was a first-team selection in 2020.

Prior to his four-year stint at Memphis, Pope was the linebackers coach at Liberty in 2019, helping the Flames go 8-5 and win the Cure Bowl in their first full-fledged season at the NCAA Division I FBS level. In its 23-16 Cure Bowl win, Liberty limited Georgia Southern, which entered the game in the top 10 nationally in rushing offense, to just 154 yards on the ground, more than 100 yards below the Eagles’ season average.

Pope was a graduate assistant at Alabama in 2017 and 2018, where he was on the same staff as Georgia Tech head coach Brent Key. In his two seasons at Alabama, the Crimson Tide went 27-2, made back-to-back College Football Playoff championship game appearances and won the 2017 national title. With the Crimson Tide, he coached nine defensive linemen that have gone on to play in the National Football League, including Pro Bowlers Daron Payne and Quinnen Williams.

He began his coaching career with one-season stints coaching the defensive line at Holmes (Miss.) Community College (2015) and Presbyterian (2016). He coached a first-team all-state honoree (Josiah Coatney) at Holmes C.C. and a pair of second-team all-Big South selections (Khari Rosier and Obinna Ntiasagwe) at Presbyterian. He also had a training camp coaching internship with the Los Angeles Chargers in 2023, working with the Chargers’ outside linebackers, a group that included six-time All-Pro Khalil Mack and four-time Pro Bowler Joey Bosa.

Pope played linebacker at Jacksonville State (2010-14), where he helped lead the Gamecocks to two Ohio Valley Conference championships and back-to-back NCAA Division I FCS playoff appearances (2013 quarterfinals, 2014 second round).

He holds degrees from Jacksonville State (B.S. – 2015) and Alabama (M.S. – 2019).

THE POPE FILE
Personal
Hometown: Sylacauga, Ala.
Alma Mater: Jacksonville State (B.S. – 2015), Alabama (M.S. – 2019)

Playing Experience
2011-14: Jacksonville State (LB)

Coaching Experience
2015: Holmes (Miss.) Community College (Defensive Line)
2016: Presbyterian (Defensive Line)
2017-18: Alabama (Graduate Assistant)
2019: Liberty (Inside Linebackers)
2020-22: Memphis (Defensive Line)
2023: Los Angeles Chargers (Training Camp Coaching Intern)
2023: Memphis (Defensive Run Game Coordinator/Defensive Line)
2024: Georgia Tech (Outside Linebackers/Edge)

Jess Simpson, a metro Atlanta native with more than 30 years of coaching experience at the high school, college and National Football League levels, joins Georgia Tech’s staff as defensive line coach.

Most recently before his arrival on The Flats, Simpson spent two seasons at Atlantic Coast Conference rival Duke, where he coached the defensive line, while also serving as co-defensive coordinator in 2022 and associate head coach for defense in 2023.

In his two seasons at Duke, Simpson directed a staunch defensive front that helped lead the Blue Devils to 17 wins (just one shy of the program’s combined win total from the four seasons prior to his arrival), including victories in the 2022 Military Bowl and 2023 Birmingham Bowl.

Working alongside current Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Tyler Santucci in 2023, Simpson’s defensive front played a big role in Duke fielding the ACC’s top-ranked scoring defense (19.0 points per game), which was good for 16th nationally. The Blue Devils also ranked among the nation’s top 50 in rushing defense, passing defense, total defense, tackles for loss, third-down defense, fourth-down defense and red-zone defense in ’23.

In 2022, the Blue Devils’ defensive front helped Duke rank first nationally in fumble recoveries (16), second in turnover margin (+1.23/game), ninth in takeaways (26) and 23rd in sacks (2.8/game), while also allowing just 121.1 rushing yards per game, good for fourth in the ACC.

Under Simpson’s tutelage, Duke defensive tackle DeWayne Carter earned all-America and all-ACC honors in both 2022 and 2023, while DT Aeneas Peebles also earned all-conference recognition.

Simpson’s ACC coaching experience also includes two seasons as assistant head coach and defensive line coach at Miami (Fla.) – 2018 and 2021. In his first season at Miami, the Hurricanes led the country in tackles for loss, third-down defense and passing defense, while ranking No. 4 in total defense. In ’21, Miami ranked eighth nationally in TFL and in the top 50 in sacks, rushing defense, third-down defense and fourth-down defense. His pupils included all-America defensive tackle Gerald Willis III in 2018.

Simpson also has three seasons of NFL coaching experience with the Atlanta Falcons, beginning as a defensive assistant in 2017, followed by two seasons as the Falcons’ defensive line coach (2019-20). Most notably, Simpson coached All-Pro defensive lineman Grady Jarrett, who compiled 176 tackles, 15.5 sacks, 35 TFL and 50 quarterback hits and earned back-to-back Pro Bowl invitations (2019-20) during Simpson’s three seasons on the Falcons’ staff.

Prior to moving to the NFL in 2017, Simpson was one of the most successful coaches in Georgia high school football history, compiling a 164-12 (.932) record, winning seven state championships and appearing in 10-straight state title games in 12 seasons as the head coach at Buford H.S. (2005-16). In total, he spent 21 years (1995-96, 1998-2016) at Buford, helped lead the Wolves to 10 state titles as a head coach and coordinator. Buford set the state’s all-time record with a 47-game winning streak from 2001-04, with Simpson serving as the Wolves’ defensive coordinator.

His high school coaching career also included one season as the head coach at East Paulding H.S. (1997) and one season as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Marietta H.S.

Simpson played tight end collegiately at Auburn. He was a member of the Tigers’ Southeastern Conference championship team in 1989 and earned letters in 1990 and ’91, helping lead Auburn to 1990 Hall of Fame Bowl and 1991 Peach Bowl berths. He then began his coaching career as a student assistant with the Tigers in 1992 and ’93. He graduated from Auburn in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing education, before going on to earn master’s degrees in education from North Georgia (2002) and educational leadership and administration from Alabama (2005).

He is married to the former Tricia Collins of Powder Springs, Ga. The couple has four children – Luke (wife: Dana), Roman, Jake and Emma, and a granddaughter, Melda Ruth. Roman played football at Army West point and is  first lieutenant in the U.S. Army. Jake played football at Wake Forest.

THE SIMPSON FILE
Personal
Hometown: Marietta, Ga.
Family: Wife – Tricia; Children – Luke (wife: Dana), Roman, Jake and Emma; Grandchild – Melda Ruth
Alma Mater: Auburn (bachelor’s – 1993), North Georgia (master’s – 2002), Alabama (educational leadership and administration – 2005)

Experience
1989-91: Auburn (TE)

Coaching Experience
1992-93: Auburn (Student Assistant)
1994: Marietta (Ga.) H.S. (Assistant Coach)
1995-96: Buford (Ga.) H.S. (Offensive Coordinator)
1997: East Paulding (Ga.) H.S. (Head Coach)
1998: Buford H.S. (Offensive Coordinator/Strength and Speed Coordinator)
1999-2004: Buford H.S. (Defensive Coordinator/Strength and Speed Coordinator)
2005-16: Buford H.S. (Head Coach)
2017: Atlanta Falcons (Defensive Assistant)
2018: Miami (Fla.) (Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Line)
2019-20: Atlanta Falcons (Defensive Line)
2021: Miami (Fla.) (Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Line)
2022: Duke (Co-Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Line)
2023: Duke (Associate Head Coach/Defensive Line)
2024: Georgia Tech (Defensive Line)

Alexander-Tharpe Fund

The Alexander-Tharpe Fund is the fundraising arm of Georgia Tech athletics, providing scholarship, operations and facilities support for Tech’s 400-plus student-athletes. Be a part of the development of Yellow Jackets that thrive academically at the Institute and compete for championships at the highest levels of college athletics by supporting the Annual Athletic Scholarship Fund, which directly provides scholarships for Georgia Tech student-athletes. To learn more about supporting the Yellow Jackets, visit atfund.org.

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