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Why 2019 Will Be Different: The Defense Will Be More Disruptive

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Geoff Collins is bringing a more aggressive and disruptive defense to the Flats

Tulsa v Temple Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Man, Thursday can’t get here soon enough! For the last several years, watching Georgia Tech’s defense has been rough. It seemed as if Tech’s defense was virtually never able to disrupt the offensive rhythm of any team, but particularly the good ones, like Clemson or Georgia, who Tech happens to play every year.

Now, I didn’t realize just how poor Tech’s defense was at being disruptive until I looked at the stats.

Comparing Havoc Rates

Season Georgia Tech (Total S&P+) Geoff Collins Defense (Total S&P+) Georgia Tech (Havoc) Geoff Collins Defense (Havoc) Georgia Tech (Front 7 Havoc) Geoff Collins Defense (Front 7 Havoc) Georgia Tech (DB Havoc) Geoff Collins Defense (DB Havoc)
Season Georgia Tech (Total S&P+) Geoff Collins Defense (Total S&P+) Georgia Tech (Havoc) Geoff Collins Defense (Havoc) Georgia Tech (Front 7 Havoc) Geoff Collins Defense (Front 7 Havoc) Georgia Tech (DB Havoc) Geoff Collins Defense (DB Havoc)
2018 33.9 (100th) 23.9 (42nd) 12.8% (119th) 15.6% (73rd) 5.8% (127th) 8% (105th) 7.1% (41st) 7.6% (27th)
2017 25.1 (49th) 24.1 (42nd) 13.1% (107th) 17.9% (34th) 6.8% (112th) 12.2% (9th) 6.3% (72nd) 5.4% (97th)
2016 28.5 (69th) 14 (5th) 11.9% (123rd) 18.1% (28th) 6.5% (120th) 10.3% (38th) 5.3% (101st) 7.7% (23rd)
2015 25.4 (53rd) 15.8 (9th) 12.1% (121st) 19.9% (12th) 6.9% (115th) 11.8% (19th) 5% (103rd) 8.1% (15th)
2014 32 (92nd) 20.7 (26th) 15.6% (66th) 18.9% (16th) 8.6% (82nd) 11.6% (16th) 7% (40th) 7.1% (34th)
2013 24.9 (52nd) 22.2 (36th) 17.4% (30th) 16.6% (50th) 10.9% (27th) 10.1% (48th) 6.5% (46th) 6.3% (56th)
2012 28.1 (65th) 25.1 (53rd) 14.8% (81st) 14.8% (80th) 9.4% (71st) 8.9% (79th) 5.1% (97th) 5.9% (74th)
2011 26.3 (58th) 18.2 (18th) 16% (58th) 16.1% (56th) 9.1% (74th) 8.8% (77th) 6.8% (33rd) 7% (32nd)
2010 27.9 (70th) 33.5 (89th) 14.5% (86th) 17.7% (32nd) 7.4% (105th) 9.7% (62nd) 7% (38th) 7.4% (27th)
2009 25.8 (60th) N/A 15.2% (73rd) N/A 9.1% (75th) N/A 5.8% (65th) N/A
2008 18.9 (29th) N/A 19.4% (19th) N/A 11.5% (37th) N/A 7.9% (18th) N/A

This chart compares every Tech defense under Paul Johnson to those of Geoff Collins during the same time period (for years he was either the defensive coordinator or head coach of his team), using data collected by Football Outsiders. They calculate havoc rate by tallying the total number of tackles for loss, passes defensed (interceptions and breakups), and forced fumbles and dividing it by total plays.

Here are some of my thoughts:

  • Man, that 2008 defense was pretty good, but it went downhill real fast.
  • I think it’s safe to say that Tech’s defensive coordinators got progressively worse at havoc-causing plays. Nate Woody could go either way because he got a slight boost from the high number of turnovers Tech had last season.
  • Geoff Collins’ first defense at Temple caused more havoc than a number of defenses during the CPJ era. Giving him more talent to work with will only see those numbers improve.
  • Ted Roof? More like Ted Oof... He seems like a nice guy, and I know he loves Georgia Tech and was great when he was a player here, but his defenses struggled a lot.
  • Geoff Collins’ defenses at Florida were freaking incredible.

From a pure football/scheme perspective, Tech brought in a defensive-minded coach who is really good at producing defenses that wreak havoc on opposing offenses. After so many vanilla defenses, I see this as a very welcome change, Having a more disruptive defense will be invaluable moving forward against those more consistently good offenses.

Optimistically, I hope Collins can get this defense to the levels he had at Florida, but realistically, I’m expecting somewhere between his Florida and Mississippi State defenses, and if the offense can keep up, we could be looking at some all-around really good Tech teams in the future.

I do also want to say this isn’t going to be a quick switch. It’s a lot easier to get worse at being disruptive than it is to get better. We’ll certainly see some improvement this year, but it could be a couple years before we see what this defense can really do.