After Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson fired defensive coordinator Al Groh and promoted Charles Kelly to the interim position, the Yellow Jackets defense hasn't improved in leaps and bounds, but it has been better. The defense was so bad, though, that it would have been hard to be worse. Georgia Tech finished with a 6-7 record and is now faced with a USC offense full of future NFL players in the Sun Bowl. This will be Kelly's last chance to prove to Johnson that he is deserving of the job.
"It's a big challenge," Kelly said of facing the Trojans. "But you know what? That's why you play the game."
Since taking over for Groh, Kelly's defense has statistically almost been the same. Under Groh, they were giving up an average of 5.84 yards per play and 30.2 points per game, and under Kelly it has been 5.85 yards per play and 29.7 points per game, but the quality of offenses, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution's Ken Sigiura, were much better in the second half of the season.
As the season went on, the defense seemed to improve, especially in the final half of the ACC Championship game against Florida State, when the Seminoles didn't score a point, but punted twice and turned the ball over three times. Florida State still won the game, but Johnson was impressed with the progress made.
"The last half of the ACC Championship game was probably the best half of defense we've played all year," Johnson said.
Johnson hasn't actively started to look for a new defensive coordinator. He believes that Kelly has done a good job and came into a tough situation. It's looking like Kelly's job could depend on the defense's performance against one of the more talented offenses in college football in the Sun Bowl.
USC and Georgia Tech face off on Dec. 31 at 2 p.m. EST.