Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets defensive coordinator Ted Roof responsible for vastly improved defense. Roof is shown running the defense against Duke. (USA TODAY Sports: Mark Dolejs)
The season is only three games old, but the Georgia Tech defense has shown improvement under new defensive coordinator Ted Roof, a Central Gwinnett grad.
On Saturday the Yellow Jackets allowed 20 points in the first half against North Carolina and allowed the Heels to score on three of their first four possessions. Adjustments were made at halftime and Tech did not allow any points in the second half, which allowed its offense to catch up and pass North Carolina.
“Most of it was effort,” defensive tackle Euclid Cummings said. “The coaches challenged us and we bought into what they said.”
Georgia Tech ended up allowing 319 yards of total offense to a North Carolina club that was averaging 402 yards. After three games Georgia Tech has allowed 34 points, which ranks 11th in the nation in scoring defense. Last year they had allowed 43 through the first three games, but gave up 138 over the next three games, a stretch that cost defensive coordinator Al Groh his job.
“The players played and that’s a credit to them,” Roof said.
The effort against North Carolina was especially pleasing since the Yellow Jackets lost starting safeties Jamal Golden and Chris Milton and linebacker Quayshawn Nealy to injuries during the game. Safety Isaiah Johnson has been out all year, unable to recover from offseason knee surgery and decided to take a redshirt season.
“Our philosophy is next man up,” Roof said. “You have to be ready to play. If you’re a backup, you have to feel like you’re going to play every snap in the game except the first one.”
That’s almost what happened. When Golden and Milton were injured, sophomore Domonique Noble stepped in to break up a key pass, jarring the ball away from a UNC receiver to force a punt, and making a tackle.
“Domonique probably didn’t play as much as he would have liked against Duke, but instead of sitting around complaining, he kept working hard and he was ready when his time came,” Roof said. “He took care of it.”
Georgia Tech’s leading tackler is linebacker Brandon Watts, who has 19 total tackles. Nealy and cornerback Jemea Thomas each have 15 tackles and have broken up a pass. Thomas also recovered a fumble.
The defense will be expected to stop a Virginia Tech offense that is led by quarterback Logan Thomas, who has had a disappointing start. Thomas has completed only 48.5 percent of his passes for 698 yards; he’s thrown six interceptions with four touchdowns.
“We know how hard it has been for us to tackle Logan Thomas,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said.
Tech fans will long remember how Thomas played in the 2011 game in Atlanta. He threw for 195 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 70 yards and two touchdowns in a 37-26 Hokies win.