Aug. 4, 2010
By Jon Cooper
The word “Mean” is right in the middle of the word “demeanor.”
Mean also is at the heart of the new of pro-active, attacking philosophy of the Georgia Tech defense.
It’s a new day for the unit on The Flats. No more sitting back and reacting. It’s time to force the issue.
Think Bill Parcells’ New England Patriots.
That’s where new defensive coordinator Al Groh comes from (he was Parcells’ D.C. and linebackers coach in New England and also worked with him with both New York NFL franchises) and where the Yellow Jackets believe they’re going.
“Coach Groh’s a winner. His defense is always great. He’s won Super Bowls,” said redshirt senior cornerback Dominique Reese. “When you have somebody like that that has so much knowledge, you can’t do anything but accept it.
“We were watching film on the New England Patriots,” Reese added. “I talked to D-Rich [Darryl Richardson] and Gary Guyton (both Tech alumni and current Patriots). We were talking about defense. We were running some of the same stuff that they were doing. It’s good.”
“I’m really buying in to Coach Groh’s system and am ready to learn everything that he has for us,” said redshirt senior Anthony Egbuniwe, who will move to outside linebacker from defensive end as part of Tech’s switch from the traditional 4-3 set-up to the 3-4. “Any time that he asks me to come in, I’ll be right there and take in and absorb everything that he has.”
Such enthusiasm is infectious and, as the Yellow Jackets prepare to open training camp, has made defense fun again — depending on which side of the ball you’re on, of course.
“They’re going to be tough,” said B-Back Anthony Allen, who got a sampling of the new look during spring practice. “You can definitely tell that there’s a new energy level out there and the guys are excited to be playing. So I’m real excited about the defense.”
Excited? About defense? Usually when one of the nation’s top ground attacks is excited about a defense it’s because of the prospect of running free without fear of repercussions. But that’s not the case with Allen and Tech’s unit.
There’s no ill will toward former D.C. Dave Wommack. But sometimes, a change in attitude makes all the difference and Groh’s fiery, hands-on approach is making such a difference.
“They’re two different people. Basically, it’s a different style of coaching,” said Egbuniwe. “You can just tell there’s a difference between Coach Groh and Coach Wommack. So you know there is going to be a difference.”
“You take after your coach. If your coach is fiery you’re going to be fiery. If your coach is more laid back you’re going to have more of a laid-back defense,” added Reese. “So when Coach Groh is yelling that gets everybody else excited.”
While right now the excitement over the defense is based purely on anticipation and Groh’s reputation, there’s a definite buzz surrounding the unit. It’s got people talking.
Increased talk is actually a vital point for this year’s defense.
“It’s a unit thing. When we’re in coverage it’s everybody working together, everybody communicating, everybody talking together,” said Egbuniwe. “We’ll all be communicating with each other, we’ll all be talking with each other and that’s going to help each and every one of us out with our coverages.
“This year the key is communication,” he added. “If we don’t talk, we can’t play, that’s basically it.”
Cohesion and communication will be crucial for a group that personifies the cliché “the sum is greater than the individual parts.” Replacing leading sacker and All-America defensive end Derrick Morgan, leading interceptor, cornerback Morgan Burnett and third-leading tackler linebacker Sedric Griffin is no small feat, but the feeling amongst this year’s group is that it’s certainly possible.
“We’re going to miss Morgan because he’s going to get his six picks,” said Reese. “But we’re two deep, three deep and anybody can play. You’ve got guys they might be listed as third string but they might be starting the next game, depending on how it went in practice.”
“We’ve got a lot of guys that people don’t really know and don’t really think about,” added Egbuniwe, who pointed to true freshman safety Isaiah Johnson and redshirt junior defensive end Jason Peters as two rising stars to keep an eye on, as well as bulked up redshirt sophomore safety Cooper Taylor and gargantuan senior linebacker Brad Jefferson, last year’s leading tackler.
“Our defense is going to surprise a lot of people this year.”