Paul Johnson assures new Georgia Tech defense will be simpler

Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Nate Woody

Credit: Danny Karnik

Credit: Danny Karnik

After one week of spring practice, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson wasn’t ready to make any sweeping declarations about the defense being implemented by new defensive coordinator Nate Woody. But he did confirm one aspect of it – it will be simpler to play.

“We’re not going to have a lot of it,” he said Saturday, following the team’s first scrimmage of the spring. “We’re going to have way less defense than we’ve had, I can tell you that.”

The complexity of former defensive coordinator Ted Roof’s scheme was sometimes cast as a reason for the Yellow Jackets’ inability to perform up to standards. Players were misaligned before the snap or were slowed by having to think through their assignments.

Indeed, Roof’s decision to trim the playbook was credited for one of the more effective stretches of his tenure – the final four games of the 2016 season. A simple defense long has been a priority for Johnson. Excessive intricacy is one reason why he believes that former defensive coordinator Al Groh’s defenses weren’t more proficient.

“I don’t want to run 40 defenses,” Johnson said. “I want to get good at a few that we do and execute and play fast. We lined up in about two ways (Saturday) and that’s about the way we play.”

One player who might particularly thrive is linebacker Victor Alexander, who appears to have found a home at outside linebacker. In Woody’s 3-4 defense, that position plays on the edge of the tackle box, often blitzing and making plays in the backfield.

“Vic’s a good athlete,” Johnson said. “He’s strong and fast. There’s not all the traffic and all the reads and stuff. He can just play fast.”

As for the scrimmage Saturday, Johnson said that more time was given to younger players.

“It’s a typical first day in pads – there was some positives and negatives,” he said.

The clouds did not necessarily part for Woody’s unit. He and his staff are in the thick of teaching the defense for the first time and evaluating all players to see where players fit best.

“It was just like any other practice,” Johnson said. “It was nothing monumental or historical. They’re struggling to get lined up. The better players do better. The matchups, when the ‘ones’ (first string) get on the ‘twos’ (second string), they look better. So it’s a lot of that.”

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