Tech football’s search for a defensive coordinator came to an end on Friday, as the team hired former Virginia Head Coach Al Groh to lead the defense. The Jackets also filled their opening at A-backs coach by promoting from within, as former Tech graduate assistant Lamar Owens will take over the position.
Groh’s name began circulating in rumors shortly after the Jackets announced that former defensive coordinator Dave Wommack would be returning, and eight days after Wommack’s departure the team announced that Groh would be his replacement.
In Groh, the Jackets pick up a coordinator with a wealth of experience as a head coach and an assistant coach at both the collegiate and professional levels. Groh most recently served as head coach of Virginia, his alma mater, for nine seasons; he was the ACC’s 2007 Coach of the Year but was fired after the Cavaliers followed up with back-to-back losing seasons.
The 65-year-old Groh has coaching experience that dates back to 1971, when he was Virginia’s defensive line coach. Most prominently, he has served as an assistant in various capacities under the highly successful Bill Parcells with the New York Giants, New England Patriots and New York Jets. Groh was the linebackers coach for the Giants team that won Super Bowl XXV after the 1990 season and replaced Parcells as the Jets’ head coach in 2000 for one season.
Groh is most notable for employing a 3-4 defensive front, which uses three down linemen and four linebackers and relies more on the linebackers to generate pressure. Under Wommack, the Jackets occasionally ran plays out of a 3-4 late in the season but generally relied on the more traditional 4-3 scheme.
Owens is not a new face for the rest of the Jackets’ staff, having served as a graduate assistant for two seasons. Owens has long had ties to Head Coach Paul Johnson, as he played football at Navy and was the starting quarterback for the Midshipmen as a senior. That year, 2005, he ran for 880 yards and passed for 1,299 yards while collecting 17 total touchdowns, and he led Navy to an 8-4 record that included a victory in the Poinsettia Bowl.