- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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ATLANTA -- Georgia Tech hired former Virginia coach Al Groh as its defensive coordinator, hoping he can turn around a unit that was burned for big yards even as the Yellow Jackets were winning the Atlantic Coast Conference championship.
Groh said Friday that he and the school have an agreement in principle, but did not disclose terms of the contract.
He plans to sign his new contract after arriving in Atlanta next week.
"I'm pleased about it," Groh said. "It was my intention right from the start to continue to be actively involved. I have a lot of energy and a lot of ambition and I feel I have as much to prove as I did 30 years ago. So we're ready to go."
Groh, fired following the Cavaliers' 3-9 season, replaces Dave Wommack, who was dismissed last week after two seasons under coach Paul Johnson. Groh, 65, has not been an assistant since 1988, when he was the offensive coordinator at South Carolina.
"I think any time you can get a coach the caliber of an Al Groh, it is a tremendous plus for your program," Johnson said. "Al has a great deal of expertise. He is considered one of the top defensive minds in the country and has a record to support it."
The Yellow Jackets allowed at least 30 points in six games but still finished the season with an 11-3 record and won its first outright conference title since 1990.
Georgia Tech had one of the nation's most prolific offenses with Johnson's trademark triple-option, averaging nearly 34 points and more than 295 rushing yards per game. But the defense struggled, leading to high-scoring games such as a 49-44 victory at Florida State, a 30-27 loss to rival Georgia and a 39-34 win against Clemson for the ACC title.
Georgia Tech concluded the season with a 24-14 loss to Iowa in the FedEx Orange Bowl.
Groh, who was 59-53 in nine years at Virginia, interviewed for the defensive coordinator position with the Miami Dolphins on Wednesday and was reportedly a front-runner for the position there.
There was speculation he wanted to reunite with Bill Parcells, who is the Dolphins' executive vice president of football operations. The two have a long history together -- Groh was an assistant under Parcells with the New York Giants and New England Patriots.
"Bill's not the coach," Groh said. "And the coach is the person you work with on a daily basis. Bill is very disciplined as he explained it to me to be non-intrusive in that process and let the coach coach the way he wants to, just as Bill always wanted it to be when he was the coach. . . . There was just a set of criteria there that I thought that Paul's program and Georgia Tech met very well."
Groh is expected to change the defensive alignment, switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4. Earlier this week, Johnson said he has no qualms about going with three down linemen instead of four.
"I'm a bottom line kind of guy," Johnson said. "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.
Johnson announced another coaching move Friday, promoting graduate assistant Lamar Owens to oversee the A-backs. The former Navy quarterback takes over for Jeff Monken, who left to become the head coach at Georgia Southern.
Heather Dinich covers the ACC for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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