ATLANTA -- Comparisons have been made all year between the defense at Georgia Tech and the defense at Georgia. Both teams changed coordinators in 2010, and both made the switch to the 3-4 defensive scheme. And while the Georgia defense has grown into one of the best in the SEC, the Georgia Tech defense has not shown the same level of maturation.
But Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson said Tuesday that it’s not quite fair to compare the two groups, since there are different variables involved.
“It would be hard to compare unless you played the same people,” Johnson said.
And while Johnson wasn’t prepared to go down a checklist to see how the team’s linebackers stack up against each other, he maintained that his team’s defense hasn’t met his standards when it comes to reliability and steadiness.
“Certainly, we haven’t played with the kind of consistency that we’d like,” Johnson said. “I don’t know that you’re ever going to be satisfied until you’re holding people to no points or 10 points. It’s always a work in progress. I think we’ve played in spurts.”
For example, the Yellow Jackets looked helpless against the run against Maryland and Virginia, played well against the run against Miami and Clemson, and let Virginia Tech run for 267 yards. The pass defense, which had been outstanding for the first two-thirds of the season and still is among the best in the ACC, has been roasted for seven touchdowns during the past two games.
Tech ranks in the middle of most ACC defensive categories. It’s eighth in scoring defense (25.3 points), sixth in total defense (359.5 yards), ninth against rushing defense (166.4 yards) and first in passing defense (193.1). Tech ranks sixth in red zone defense, allowing 34 scores on 43 chances.
“I think (defensive coordinator Al) Groh would be the first to tell you we’re not as far along as we’d like to be, but at the same time, we’ve played good enough to win eight games. It’s kind of a mixed bag.”
It’s a young bag, too. Tech only starts four seniors on defense: end Jason Peters, tackle Logan Walls, outside linebacker Stephen Sylvester and safety Rashaad Reid. They’re part of an 11-man senior class that will be making its final appearance at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
The group is special to Johnson, since they’ve been with him since he arrived in Atlanta. The other seniors include contributors like Roddy Jones, Preston Lyons, Tyler Melton and Embry Peeples, as well as reserves Chandler Anderson, Michael Peterson and Ty Rawlings.
“They’ve been here with us from the start,” Johnson said. “They’ve seen a lot of ups and highs and a few lows along the way, but they’ve stayed with the program and we’ll see how this year finishes out. But they have a chance to be a part of a pretty good stretch over their four years.”
During their four years, Tech has won 34 games, won the ACC championship, played in its first BCS bowl game and beat eight nationally ranked teams, including two in the top 10.
“If we can find a way to win a couple more games they’ll have accomplished quite a lot over their career, so they’ve been pretty special to Georgia Tech,” Johnson said.
Georgia Tech is expected to be at full strength Saturday. A-Back Orwin Smith and B-Back reserve Preston Lyons will both return, as will wide receiver Stephen Hill, who didn’t play the second half of the Duke game.