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Ga. Tech dumps defensive coordinator Al Groh

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Ga. Tech dumps defensive coordinator Al Groh

ATLANTA (AP) With Georgia Tech's season falling apart, coach Paul Johnson knew he would have to make a change at defensive coordinator.

He decided not to wait.

Former Virginia and New York Jets coach Al Groh was fired Monday by the Yellow Jackets, who had lost three games - all of them while surrendering more than 40 points, the first time that's happened in school history.

The stretch included an embarrassing 49-28 home loss to Middle Tennessee.

With Johnson hearing plenty of griping himself from Georgia Tech fans but figuring there're still time to salvage the season, he decided to dump Groh during the off week.

``It's really disappointing and frustrating,'' Johnson said at a hastily called news conference. ``You never want to do it. But, to me, that's part of being a leader. Sometimes you have to do hard things. I still have a great deal of respect for Al. In my mind, he's had a very good career. Maybe he will still coach. I don't know what the future holds. It just wasn't working here.''

Johnson has never fired an assistant during the season, but felt he had to do something to show he wasn't already looking ahead to 2013. The move was made two days after the Yellow Jackets (2-4, 1-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) lost 47-31 to No. 16 Clemson.

``To me, it was inevitable,'' Johnson said. ``I didn't want to give up on the rest of the season. I still think we can come back and have a good season. That's why I did it now.''

The Yellow Jackets have one of the nation's worst defenses - ranked 89th in points allowed (30.2), 90th in total defense (431 yards per game) and 103rd in third-down efficiency. That latter figure might be most troubling to Johnson, whose team has allowed opponents to convert nearly 48 percent in those situations and was especially poor against Clemson. The Tigers were 13 of 19 on third down, keeping Georgia Tech's potent offense on the sideline.

The defense has been especially leaky in the second half, squandering a 17-point lead to Miami and allowing Virginia Tech to kick a tying field goal after going ahead of the Hokies with less than a minute remaining. Both times, the Yellow Jackets lost in overtime.

The 68-year-old Groh was hired by Johnson in 2010 after being fired by Virginia, where he went 59-54 in eight seasons. Before returning to his alma mater, he went 9-7 in his lone season as an NFL head coach with the Jets. Groh also went 26-40 in six seasons as Wake Forest's coach in the 1980s.

He issued a statement through Georgia Tech saying he understood the decision, also thanking the players and his assistants for their hard work.

``The institute has decided to go in a different direction, which I respect,'' Groh said. ``I aimed to give the best that I had every day. It's been an honor to be a part of the legacy of Georgia Tech football. I feel positive that this is a good time in life to move on to a new situation.''

The time to move on has been building for a while.

Johnson's discontent with Groh goes back to last season, when the Yellow Jackets lost five of their last seven games, capped by a 30-27 overtime loss to Utah in the Sun Bowl. The Utes scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to tie the game, then won in overtime.

This year, more of the same.

``I was hopeful as we started, this being the third year. I was hopeful we would see some improvement,'' Johnson said. ``I was encouraged at the first of year, but it became apparent that was short-lived. The last three games was a carry-over of the last six games a year ago.''

Secondary coach Charles Kelly will take over as interim coordinator, and Johnson shook up the rest of the defensive staff. Specials teams coordinator David Walkosky will oversee the line, Andy McCollum shifts from the line to inside linebackers, and Joe Speed moves from inside to outside linebackers.

Their orders are clear.

``My big goal is to simplify and see if we can't get lined up and play faster, play harder,'' Johnson said. ``I don't think you've got to trick people. You've got to line up and know what you're doing and play fast.''

Groh installed the 3-4 when he got to Georgia Tech, but it was clear the players never fully picked up the scheme. Also, there was a difference in philosophy with Johnson, who felt Groh didn't do enough full-speed work in practice.

``To me, defense is energy and playing fast and playing with enthusiasm,'' Johnson said. ``It's hard to get that if you don't go live (full-speed drills) some of the time.''

While Johnson's focus has been on running the option offense, he believes the Yellow Jackets have plenty of talent on the defensive side. But the 3-4 seemed ill-suited to a school that has trouble recruiting the sort of dominant defensive tackles that are needed to make it work.

``I'm not sold that we don't have good players,'' Johnson said. ``I'm very confident in our players' ability. We'll see.''

He praised Groh's defensive knowledge, but said he was never able to pass it on to his players.

``Al is very smart man. He understands what's inside his head,'' Johnson said. ``The problem is we weren't seeing it on the field. For whatever reason, it wasn't transcending.''

That left Johnson with only one option: make a change.

He decided not to wait.

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Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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Doug Williams says Redskins will listen to draft trade offers but a trade up is unlikely

Doug Williams says Redskins will listen to draft trade offers but a trade up is unlikely

The Redskins aren’t in the quarterback business, so it’s highly unlikely that they will look to trade up in the first round of the draft on Thursday. But their phones will be open for business to move down. 

Speaking at the team’s pre-draft press conference, Doug Williams didn’t rule out trading up from the team’s first-round spot at 13thoverall but he doesn’t think it’s likely. 

“The chances of trading up might be a little slimmer than trading down,” he said. 

Williams said that the phones in the room will be ringing and that they will listen to any offers. But usually the team that wants to move up initiates the call and because the Redskins are set at one particular position they probably won’t pick up the phone. 

“If we were in the quarterback business, which is what this league is about, if we were in the heavy quarterback business we’d talk about moving up,” he said. “At this time, we can sit back and see what comes up if we stay at 13.”

The Redskins are set at quarterback after they traded their third-round pick and cornerback Kendall Fuller for veteran Alex Smith to replace the departed Kirk Cousins. Williams thinks that the Redskins already got good value from the pick. 

“When I think about Alex Smith, I say we got the best third-round pick in the draft,” he said. “I don't care what nobody says. You can't get a better third-round pick.”

Because they think they got a good player, albeit an older one, with that pick, the Redskins are not necessarily looking to make a deal to move back and recoup that pick on draft day. 

Williams emphasized that in order to move back, you have to have a team that wants to trade up. Often that is easier said than done. 

“They don’t just call you to ask you, they have to get a player that they want,” said Williams. “At that particular time, they’re afraid that somebody else might pick him. They might call you to ask you if you want to move back . . . If we move back, that’s because somebody called us to see if we want to move back.”

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Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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Why the Redskins should take a serious look at Virginia Tech’s Terrell Edmunds

Why the Redskins should take a serious look at Virginia Tech’s Terrell Edmunds

NBC Sports Washington’s four-part digital series ‘E-Boyz’ -- chronicling the illustrious past, decorated present and bright future of the Edmunds family -- is NOW LIVE. Check out a new episode daily, leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft. Watch the second episode above and more here.

Many Redskins fans are hoping the team secures a defensive back in the first round by landing a guy like Derwin James or Minkah Fitzpatrick. But if Washington opts to address a different position in Round 1, there'll be a quality safety available in the middle rounds in Terrell Edmunds.

Terrell, the brother of top-10 prospect Tremaine, is projected to be taken in the third or fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft. As of now, the Redskins don't have a selection in the former, but a trade could change that. They pick 109th in the latter.

"Terrell possesses high end speed and explosion traits that are coveted for his position," writes NFL.com. "He has man cover talent against big targets and should step right into a role on the coverage units for special teams."

With D.J. Swearinger and Montae Nicholson, Washington's starting safety tandem is taken care of on paper. Nicholson was injured often as a rookie, though, so depth is needed behind him. And their special teams have been leaky for quite some time, providing the Virginia Tech Hokie a place to make an immediate impact while he works his way into the defensive rotation.

It's a rotation he would likely feel at home in, too. Edmunds is more than comfortable talking trash, so if he does become a Redskin, he'd fit right in alongside the likes of the fellow vocal guys like Swearinger, Josh Norman and Quinton Dunbar.