Former Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Al Groh will make his return to Bobby Dodd Stadium Saturday. True to form, for the stoic Groh, who will be the analyst for the ACC Network Extra broadcast, the moment won’t be dripping in sentiment.
“No more so than being at Wake Forest last week or Syracuse next week,” Groh said.
Groh has been working as a game analyst since 2013, the year following his dismissal from Tech midway through the 2012 season. He has done his work for ESPN’s family of networks and on the radio for Westwood One Sports. Recognizing that going back to coaching at the level he’d want is highly unlikely, he has embraced the challenge of broadcast.
“It’s not the same as competing on the field, but it’s challenging to be prepared for whatever might occur in the game, be knowledgeable about the teams,” Groh said. “It keeps me in touch with the game, makes me study and stay mentally active.”
Groh’s broadcasting style is clinical. He gives breakdowns of why plays did or didn’t work, identifies blocking schemes and evaluates players’ strengths and weaknesses. His study of Tech’s game against Boston College and several from last season gave him an appreciation for B-backs Dedrick Mills and Marcus Marshall.
“I think they have those two B-backs that look to me like they have a chance to be pretty dynamic players, real, true running backs,” Groh said. “They could run in any system, with some explosiveness and ability to make lateral cuts. They’re impressive players.”
Tech’s class of redshirt seniors is the last that Groh coached. Defensive end Rod Rook-Chungong was among the last of players that Groh recruited out of Washington D.C., a group that included Jeremiah Attaochu and Louis Young.
Groh coached at Tech from 2010 through the sixth game of the 2012 season, when coach Paul Johnson dismissed him after the Jackets gave up 40 points in three consecutive games for the first time in school history.
“It’s one of the legacy football schools,” Groh said. “John Heisman, Bobby Dodd and what not. So I was very pleased and proud to have been a small part of that.”
It was a more gracious comment than his assessment in January 2013, when he told the Roanoke Times that the environment was unprofessional, divisive and negative. Groh chose to leave the comments in the past.
“All those things, every place I’ve been, whether it was a success or there were things I’d wish we’d have done better, I always looked out the front windshield and not the rearview mirror,” he said.
As part of the standard protocol for a broadcast, Groh said he spoke Thursday on a teleconference with Johnson and defensive coordinator Ted Roof.
“It went good,” Groh said. “Good information, and those calls are interesting with the coaches every week. They either provide new insights, that inside information that I didn’t see or confirm things that I was able to see, so I always enjoy those.”
One benefit of broadcasting, Groh said, is the chance to visit with former players and colleagues. He’ll have such an opportunity in Atlanta.
Groh’s plans for his visit to Atlanta included a trip to watch Pace Academy’s game against Thomson High. Pace, which won the Class AA state title last year, is coached by Chris Slade, whom Groh coached with the Patriots. In a recent interview with the AJC, Slade said that Groh has been a father figure and probably his biggest coaching mentor.
Groh and his wife Anne live in Hingham, Mass., south of Boston, where they lived when he coached with the New England Patriots and planned to live in their retirement. Life includes visits with children and grandchildren, golf, trips to the gym and his new vocation.
“This has been very good for me,” he said.
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