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Georgia Tech Football: Tyler Santucci Inside the Numbers

A deeper dive into Georgia Tech’s new defensive coordinator.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 18 Duke at Virginia Photo by Lee Coleman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Last night, Rivals’ Kelly Quinlan (among others) reported that Brent Key finally got his new defensive coordinator in the form of Tyler Santucci. Today, we are going to take a deeper look into Santucci’s past to get a better idea of how Santucci might perform at Georgia Tech.

Coaching History

  • 2010: Stony Brook (Graduate Assistant for Linebackers)
  • 2011: Stony Brook (Graduate Assistant for Defensive Line)
  • 2012: Stony Brook (Safeties Coach)
  • 2013: Stony Brook (Defensive Line Coach)
  • 2014: Wake Forest (Graduate Assistant for Defensive Line)
  • 2015: Wake Forest (Graduate Assistant for Linebackers)
  • 2016: Texas State (Linebackers Coach)
  • 2017: Notre Dame (Defensive Analyst)
  • 2018: Texas A&M (Defensive Analyst)
  • 2019: Wake Forest (Linebackers Coach)
  • 2020-2021: Texas A&M (Linebackers Coach)
  • 2022: Texas A&M (Co-Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers Coach)
  • 2023: Duke (Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers Coach)

Santucci has experience at several different schools, but I think it is noteworthy that on more than one occasion, he had separate stints with the same school. That means that coaches thought enough of him to bring him back. For this article, I will be looking at Santucci’s time at Texas State, Wake Forest, Texas A&M, and Duke.

Texas State

Texas State had a rough 2016 season. It was head coach Everett Withers’ first season, and the Bobcats finished just 2-10. Despite being picked in the preseason to finish 10th in the Sun Belt, they actually failed to meet expectations and finished last in the conference, failing to win a single conference game.

Unfortunately, the defense was a big reason why. The Bobcats allowed opposing teams to score less than 35 points just two times: once in their victory over Incarnate Word (who scored 17) and once in a loss to UL-Lafayette (who scored 27).

Interestingly, though, the linebackers were the highlight of an otherwise poor defense. Linebackers Bryan London (who was a redshirt freshman) and Gabe Loyd both finished with over 100 tackles on the season. London actually finished with 141. He added 8.0 tackles for loss and 2 forced fumbles while Loyd added 7.0 TFL and 2 sacks (all team highs).

Wake Forest

At Wake Forest, Santucci became part of a much better team and a much better defense. And once again, Santucci’s linebackers were a shining piece on the defense. The top three tacklers on the Demon Deacons’ defense that season were all linebackers: Ryan Smenda, Jr. (81 tackles, 7.0 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 1 interception), Jacquez Williams (73 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles), and Justin Strnad (69 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 interception). Notably, Strnad only played in eight games that season.

Texas A&M

It’s tough to extrapolate much from Santucci’s time at either Texas State or Wake Forest because he was in a position coach job for just one year. The linebackers he coached performed well, but his time at A&M will give us an opportunity to show how his linebackers were able to develop.

2020

The Aggies’ top two leading tacklers in 2020 were Buddy Johnson and Aaron Hansford, two linebackers. Johnson finished with 85 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 4 sacks, 1 interception, and 2 forced fumbles. Hansford finished with 49 tackles, 7 TFL, and 3 sacks.

2021

Hansford’s strong play continued into 2021, where he finished with 89 total tackles, 8.5 TFL, 2 sacks, and a fumble returned for a touchdown. This is the first time that the second-leading tackler has not also been a linebacker. Instead, linebacker Edgerrin Cooper ranked fifth on the team in tackles. He finished with 58 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 0.5 sacks, and 1 interception.

2022

Cooper and linebacker Chris Russell both finished in the top 5 tacklers for the Aggies in 2022, but neither ranked at the top, but 2022 was also a down season for the Aggies as a whole. Cooper finished with 61 tackles, 8 TFL, and a forced fumble. Russell finished with 66 tackles, 7 TFL, 2.5 sacks, and 1 forced fumble.

Since Santucci also served as the co-DC in this season, I wanted to turn to Game On Paper to see how the defense as a whole performed across the season.

Data courtesy of GameOnPaper.com

What stands out immediately to me is that A&M’s defense was mostly pretty solid despite being on the field for a long time. I think that’s something that bodes well, although hopefully staying on the field for a long time is not an issue at Georgia Tech.

Duke

After that 2022 season at A&M, Mike Elko was hired as the head coach at Duke and brought along Santucci to serve as his defensive coordinator.

Data courtesy of GameOnPaper.com

The defense they took over was fine, but not stellar. The run defense was among the league’s best despite allowing a high success rate, but the pass defense was among some of the worst.

Data courtesy of GameOnPaper.com

Santucci’s lone season as Duke’s defensive coordinator saw drastic improvement for Duke’s pass defense and no drop-off against the run. The defense also increased its success rate allowed to around the middle of the league instead of at the bottom. Overall, it seems that Santucci had a positive impact on Duke’s defense in his short time.

So what does all of this mean for Georgia Tech?

Given his short stints at each school, it’s tough to determine much, but there are a few things that stand out to me:

  • He has returned to schools he’s been at before. Generally, you don’t bring someone back to work with you in a higher position if they don’t perform well.
  • His linebackers consistently caused havoc plays. This is something that Georgia Tech severely lacked (aside from turnovers). Santucci’s linebackers consistently were bringing in close to 10 tackles for loss, and that’s something that would be very beneficial to Tech’s defense.
  • At least at the surface level, he’s never had a bad stint. I think it’s reasonable to say that Santucci has had success basically everywhere he’s gone. Even at 2-10 Texas State, his linebackers were probably the best part of that team. I think that’s pretty impressive.

For those wondering, Santucci employed a 4-2-5 defense that featured a stand-up rush end at Duke. I’m curious to see exactly what he’s going to do here since the coaching model is switching to a separate outside linebackers coach. I would be interested to see if he opts for more of a 2-4-5 model that uses two stand-up linebackers in place of traditional defensive ends. Once his introductory press conference happens, I hope we have a better idea about what his defense will look like.