Former Duke coach Ted Roof now guides Georgia Tech defense

lkeeley@newsobserver.comSeptember 12, 2013 

Ted Roof paused when asked what he learned from his experience as Duke’s football coach from 2003 through 2007.

“Well,” he said. “Do you have three hours?”

Roof, now Georgia Tech’s defensive coordinator, will make his first trip back to Durham on Saturday when the Blue Devils (2-0) host the Yellow Jackets (1-0) at 3:30 p.m. (ESPNU).

He became the Blue Devils’ head coach midway through the 2003 season, moving up from defensive coordinator when then-athletics director Joe Alleva fired Carl Franks. Roof went 2-3 to finish the season, beating Georgia Tech 41-17 to snap Duke’s 29-game ACC losing streak and ending the season with a 30-22 win at North Carolina, the first time Duke had beaten the Tar Heels since 1989.

His interim tag was removed that offseason.

Roof, a first-time head coach, wasn’t able to match his early success on the field in subsequent years. Duke beat The Citadel and Clemson in 2004, Virginia Military in 2005 and Northwestern in 2007, his last year. He was dismissed at the end of the season and finished with a 6-45 record.

“As a head coach, all the problems stop on that desk,” he said. “And that experience has made me a better assistant coach, so I can keep problems off that desk.

“I have lots of wonderful memories and met lots of wonderful people. It was great preparation for the next time I get that opportunity.”

The Duke program Roof will see Saturday bears little resemblance to the one he remembers. Alleva, who replaced Roof with coach David Cutcliffe, is now at Louisiana State.

After Roof’s dismissal, Duke substantially increased its financial commitment to football – facilities have been built and renovated, the recruiting budget is bigger and there’s more money to pay coaches.

“Every decision I made at Duke was like fourth-and-1 for the national championship because it had to be – we had no margin for error,” he said. “The ACC was changing, with Boston College, Virginia Tech and Miami coming, and we were playing against teams like Tennessee, Alabama and Notre Dame, teams that were more institutionally supported than we were at Duke. That’s just a fact.”

Roof said he still keeps in touch from time to time with a few people on the current staff, like trainer Hap Zarzour and Sonny Falcone in sports performance. He has even touched base with Mike Krzyzewski a few times since he left, he said.

Arguably Roof’s most valuable contribution to Duke football is Scottie Montgomery, the Blue Devils’ associate head coach and receivers coach. Montgomery was hired by Roof in 2006, retained by Cutcliffe and returned to Duke this season after three years with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“He gave me an opportunity,” said Montgomery, who keeps in touch with his former boss.

Roof, an all-America linebacker who graduated from Georgia Tech in 1985, hasn’t had a losing record as an assistant coach since leaving Duke, and there have been quite a few stops.

After holding the linebackers coaching position at Louisville for about two months, Roof became Minnesota’s defensive coordinator in 2008, and the Gophers went from 1-11 to 7-6.

He was Auburn’s defensive coordinator in 2009-11 and was a part of the 2010 BCS national championship team. Roof went to Central Florida for 33 days in 2012 before taking the defensive coordinator job at Penn State. Despite the bowl ban and other NCAA sanctions, the Nittany Lions went 8-4 – one of his most rewarding years of coaching, Roof said.

Now, he’s back at Georgia Tech in his second stint as defensive coordinator (Roof said he owns zero property, joking that having a realtor’s license would have saved him considerable money over the years). He doesn’t buy into the idea that the Yellow Jackets’ defensive coordinator is at a disadvantage by virtue of going against the triple-option attack in practice.

“People say it’s unconventional, but I don’t know what a conventional offense in college football is,” Roof said. “There’s something different every week. All I know is if you’re a defensive lineman, a double team is a double team, a zone is a zone. If you’re a safety, a post is a post, a curl flat is a curl flat.”

And football is football, regardless if it’s played in familiar territory.

“It won’t be a sightseeing trip,” he said of his return to Durham. “We’re coming to play football.”

Keeley: 919-829-4556; Twitter: @laurakeeley

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