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Day of change for Georgia Tech football: Thomas to draftl Wommack fired

Photo by Hans Deryk

Photo by Hans Deryk

ATLANTA (AP) -- Demaryius Thomas is the first of what may become a long list of Georgia Tech juniors to enter the NFL draft.

Thomas, a junior wide receiver, announced his decision on Friday.

"Playing in the NFL has been a dream since I've been a little boy," Thomas said.

Thomas said he was advised he could be drafted in the second round.

"I was saying if it's first or second I'm going to go," he said. "If it's anything below that I'm going to stay and try to get my degree and try to get in the first or second next year."

At 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, Thomas is an unusually big receiver with good speed. He led the Yellow Jackets with 46 receptions and led the Atlantic Coast Conference with 1,154 yards receiving and 25.1 yards per catch this season.

The native of Dublin, Ga., caught passes in 29 straight games before he was shut out in Georgia Tech's 24-14 Orange Bowl loss to Iowa on Tuesday.

No other Georgia Tech receiver had as many as 10 catches this season. Running back Embry Peeples was second on the team with eight catches for 244 yards. Stephen Hill, who may move up as the replacement for Thomas, had six catches for 137 yards.

Georgia Tech is awaiting announcements from at least three more highly rated juniors: defensive end Derrick Morgan, running back Jonathan Dwyer and safety Morgan Burnett. Morgan and Dwyer are rated as probable first-round picks.

Underclassmen must make their draft decisions by next Friday.

Coach Paul Johnson said he wasn't worried about possibly losing so many juniors.

"You lose guys every year," Johnson said. "We don't have very many seniors. We lost six scholarship seniors. There's a chance we could lose four juniors. We'll see in the next few days. If we do, I just think you look at it like we lost 10 seniors. That's the only way you look at it and you try to replace them."

Thomas said he has not talked with the other players about their decisions.

"I was just doing this for myself," he said. "I don't know what nobody else is doing. I haven't talked to them since the Orange Bowl."

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WOES FOR WOMMACK:

ATLANTA -- Georgia Tech's successful season, including its ACC championship and first Orange Bowl appearance in more than 40 years, was not enough to save defensive coordinator Dave Wommack's job.

Coach Paul Johnson fired Wommack on Friday, only three days after the team's 24-14 Orange Bowl loss to Iowa left the team 11-3 and ranked No. 13.

"Dave is a real good guy and he's knowledgeable at what he does, but it wasn't working for us to the degree I feel like we have to play to get where I want to go," Johnson said.

Georgia Tech ranked 54th in the nation in total defense and 56th in scoring defense.

Wommack's defense allowed 30 or more points in six games this season, including a 30-27 loss to Georgia to close the regular season.

"We actually probably played one of our better defensive games in the bowl game," Johnson said. "The prior two games, we did not force a punt in either game. That's not good. I think it will be good for the program to get a fresh look at it and a fresh start and see if we can't build on it and get better."

Georgia Tech allowed 24.8 points per game even when helped by the Yellow Jackets' ball-control spread option offense. The Yellow Jackets finished third in the nation in time of possession.

"I think that has to factor in," Johnson said. "If you're playing less possessions, certainly you ought to be giving up less yards or whatever."

Johnson said he and Wommack "both agreed that it was time for a change at that position."

The move was a surprise, but Johnson hinted before the bowl game that he would take action to improve the defense.

"I think the players have to be accountable, coaches have to be accountable, and you have to take a good hard look at everything," Johnson said. "Trust me, I will."

Johnson delivered on his promise by firing Wommack. He said his search to replace Wommack would begin immediately.

Wommack said last week the defense was hurt by injuries.

"I can't sit here and say that it's improved as the year's gone on," Wommack said.

"We're deficient in some areas. There is no question about that. The kids play hard, and they work hard, but there are have been some deficiencies with our defense this year."

Johnson wouldn't comment on speculation he has interest in former Virginia coach Al Groh.

"I've talked to a lot of people about the position," Johnson said. "I'm not going to get into who I've talked to and who I haven't talked to.

"We'll sit down and try to make the best decision and look and see who I feel like gives us the best chance to have the best defense we can have and go from there. I can assure you nobody has been hired."

Johnson also must replace special teams coordinator and A-backs coach Jeff Monken, who was named Georgia Southern's head coach on Nov. 29.

Johnson hired Wommack, 53, from Southern Mississippi, where he was linebackers coach, two years ago. He was assistant head coach and defensive coordinator at Southern Mississippi in 1999 and 2000 before working as a defensive assistant at Arkansas and South Carolina.

He is a native of Kimberling City, Mo., and a graduate of Missouri Southern. He received his master's degree from Arkansas in 1979