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Johnson already looking to 2010 after ACC title
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ATLANTA — Paul Johnson knows what he wants in a defensive coordinator.

Now, he’s just got to find the right man.

The Georgia Tech coach said Wednesday he’s considering “two or three scenarios” as he seeks a replacement for Dave Wommack, who was fired after only two seasons on the job. The Yellow Jackets gave up huge chunks of yards in 2009, managing to win their first outright Atlantic Coast Conference title in 19 years largely on the strength of the triple-option offense.

Johnson is eager to tighten things up on the other side of the line. Among the potential candidates: former Virginia coach Al Groh, who would switch from the 4-3 to the 3-4 if he got the job.

“We’re going to have one sometime,” Johnson quipped. “I’ve got to make sure it’s the right fit and what we want to do. We have to take personnel into consideration a little bit, but it’s going well. We’ll have one as soon as we decide 100 percent what we want to do. I’ve got some scenarios in play. It’s just a matter of making a decision and finalizing it.”

Johnson said he’s got no qualms about going with three down linemen instead of four.

“I’m a bottom line kind of guy,” he said. “The bottom line is what I want. There’s a lot of ways to get there. I like what we do on offense, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only one you can be successful at. I feel the same way about defense. I want somebody who has a system, who understands it and can be effective. Whether it’s a 3-4, 4-3 or an eight-man front ... can you teach it?
That’s the bottom line.

“It’s not what you know, but what you can teach to the guys.”

The Yellow Jackets lost four impact players in the past week. Top rusher Jonathan Dwyer, leading receiver Demaryius Thomas, All-America defensive end Derrick Morgan and hard-hitting safety Morgan Burnett all gave up their senior seasons to enter the NFL draft.

Johnson doesn’t seem too concerned.

“The neat thing about college football is every team is different,” he said. “It changes every year. You enjoy the time when they’re playing, you miss ‘em when they’re gone and you move on. Who would have thought three years ago that Derrick Morgan would be what Derrick Morgan was this year?”

Three defenders who missed most of 2009 with injuries should help ease the loss of Morgan and Burnett. Safety Cooper Taylor and end Robert Hall will definitely return for spring practice, and linebacker Kyle Jackson is making good progress from foot surgery though there’s a chance he won’t get back on the field until the fall, according to Johnson.

On the offensive side, Johnson confirmed that A-back Anthony Allen will get first crack at replacing Dwyer in the backfield. That should be a smooth transition — after all, Allen started at running back for Louisville before transferring to Georgia Tech.

“I would be really, really stunned if our (running back) next year didn’t gain over 1,000 yards,” Johnson said. “Jon was a great player. We’re going to miss him. But someone else will have an opportunity to step in there.”
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