The Georgia Tech football fans who have cried for a more aggressive approach on defense are about to get it with their new defensive coordinator.
Nate Woody, hired away from Appalachian State, is bringing a new 3-4 base defense and a get-after-them approach designed to create more takeaways and put pressure on the opposition. The approach worked at Appalachian State, which led the Sun Belt Conference in defense the last three years.
But will it work at Georgia Tech and in the ACC?
“If the defense attacks and plays fast, it has a chance to be successful,” Woody said. “Guys buy into it and have fun playing it.”
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Under Ted Roof, Georgia Tech’s defense allowed 26.5 points per game in 2017, ninth-best in the 15-team ACC. The Yellow Jackets ranked next-to-last in the league with 17 sacks. Tech had six interceptions, caused 16 fumbles and recovered four. Roof resigned last month after five seasons to become defensive coordinator at North Carolina State.
Woody’s approache worked well at Appalachian State. The Mountaineers averaged 24 takeaways, 19 interceptions and 35 sacks per season over the last three years, winning 30 games and two conference championship.
Typical of Woody’s offense was the Dollar General Bowl against Toledo, the Mid-American Conference champion. Appalachian State forced four turnovers and held the nation’s No. 8 offense to 146 total yards in a 34-0 win.
“Watching them play Toledo, which is a pretty good offensive football team, and the first thing that impressed me was how hard they played and how fast they played,” Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson said. “There was no question they knew where they were going and what they were doing because they were going 100 mph. That’s the thing that appeals to me.”
While making his decision, Johnson watched a handful of Appalachian State game films to get a idea of how Woody’s teams operated. He invited Woody to Chateau Johnson for a visit and was quickly convinced he’d found the right man.
“My idea is I want the guys to be unencumbered, play fast, now how to get lined up, run to the ball and create some negative plays and have fun doing it,” Johnson said. “He has the background and track record that shows he’s gotten it done.”
The defense added another coach on Friday, hiring Wofford College defensive coordinator Shiel Wood to coach safeties and help with special teams. Wood had worked on the defensive staff with Woody before he left for Appalachian State.
Wood helped Wofford (10-3) to the Southern Conference championship and allowed it to reach the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Division I FCS playoffs this fall. They were beaten by eventual national champion North Dakota State.
The Terriers were second in the Southern Conference and 26th in FCS in total defense, allowing 326.7 yards per game. Wofford was especially tough against the run, leading the Southern Conference in 121.7 yards per game, and holding six of their 13 opponents to less than 100 yards.
“I’m really excited about adding Shiel to our staff,” Johnson said. “He comes from a great coaching pedigree at Wofford, where he enjoyed success under our new defensive coordinator, Nate Woody, and as a defensive coordinator himself this past season. I think his experience with coach Woody and as a defensive play-caller will be a great asset as we install our new defense here at Georgia Tech.”
Johnson also announced that longtime Tech assistant Andy McCollum will transition to coaching the inside linebackers. McCollum has coached safeties the last two years. He has coached linebackers in four of his eight seasons since joining the staff.
The Yellow Jackets have one remaining staff position to fill. That will be a defensive line coach to replace Mike Pelton, who was let go in order to find someone with experience working with a 3-4 defense scheme.