‘Cause you know if there is one guy who appreciates loyalty to a college football program, it’s Bobby Petrino.
Although it sounds like Grantham’s decision was more about the Raydahs than Louisville.
The only person who’s going to be more upset by this than Bobby Petrino…
UPDATE: Recruiting season is a very important time for Todd Grantham.
ESPN’s Max Olson reported Monday that Fields is visiting Bobby Petrino’s program this weekend and that the Cardinals are “in the lead” to land the 2014 preseason Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.
Despite that honor, Fields didn’t play a snap of NCAA football this past season, having been “separated” from TCU after being connected with a domestic violence incident in July. Fields allegedly punched and threatened an ex-girlfriend, and after a planned transfer to Stephen F. Austin fell through, transferred to Trinity Valley Community Valley College in Athens, Texas.
Athens, Texas ain’t Athens, Georgia. Louisville ain’t, either.
This started out as a bullet point in my last “Observations” post for the season (it’s coming, it’s coming!), but I wound up fleshing it out so much it deserves to stand as a post on its own.
The Belk Bowl offered a contrast in defensive coordinators that we all watched closely. But the lessons to take away from the game shouldn’t be the element of revenge or Todd Grantham’s personality (not that those weren’t entertaining as hell), but what we saw happen on the field. And what I saw makes me think things are getting better for Georgia’s defense.
Both Grantham and Pruitt run similar base formations. And both change those base formations when they’re faced with passing attacks that spread the field of play. But their underlying philosophies are different. Grantham told us from the day he walked in the door that his primary goal was to disrupt the line of scrimmage and pressure the quarterback. That’s been no secret. And if you watch his defenses play, that’s what he does. It’s what he did in the bowl game.
It’s a high-risk, high-reward strategy. When it works – think about times like the first half of the 2011 SECCG or the mad comeback in the fourth quarter of the 2013 Auburn game – it can be devastating on an offense. But when it doesn’t, things can turn spectacularly ugly. It also puts a tremendous amount of pressure on whoever’s playing behind the front to cover for those times when the line of scrimmage isn’t disrupted.
That’s not what Pruitt’s about. Oh sure, there’s certainly an element of pressure to what he does and he’s as creative with his blitz packages as Grantham, but that’s not where his focus starts. Pruitt’s main goal is not giving up the big play. That may leave a defense of his susceptible to giving up steady bites of yardage, but it’s rarely going to get creamed. Maybe the explanation is as simple as one guy being a front-oriented coach and the other being a back-oriented coach. But the difference is there. And it played out that way in the bowl game.
Against Georgia, Louisville’s longest play from scrimmage went for 29 yards. It came during a non-scoring drive. Georgia had five plays longer than that – plays of 30, 31, 32, 44 and 82 yards. All led to scores.
It was funny to see the insistence by folks on Louisville message boards and blog comment threads about the number of short running plays Georgia had and how that was evidence Grantham’s defense worked. (Even Richt said something about all the short gains in the running game.) But read Lilly’s comment in the Quote of the Day – Georgia knew exactly what it was doing by being patient against Grantham and the Louisville defense. It paid off.
Pruitt’s base alignment may be different from, say, Brian VanGorder’s, but his philosophy comes straight out of the same Bend, But Don’t Break 101 course. And I would argue it’s better aligned with the traditional strength of the Georgia program, which is focused on bringing in upper-tier high school talent in its recruiting. There is a value to having someone who can scheme around green talent in the secondary when you’re likely to have that kind of talent routinely flowing through. I know Georgia’s had to pull in a few JUCO kids (along with a UAB refugee) in Pruitt’s two recruiting class, but that’s to address some short-term roster deficiencies. I expect over the next few years that Georgia will chase fewer and fewer JUCO players. I expect Louisville will do the opposite – and that’s not meant as criticism. Grantham’s approach puts a premium on defensive players who can walk in and play college ball without too much polishing. (It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that’s another reason he switched schools.)
If you want a poster boy to illustrate my point here, look no further than Quincy Mauger. I know Swann’s gotten most of the attention for how much his game improved with the coaching change, and it’s deserved. But what Pruitt’s done to make Mauger not just functional, but a true contributor on defense, after a horrific 2013 season in which Mauger looked lost even for a true freshman, is remarkable. It was Quincy Mauger in last season’s bowl game who didn’t maintain position as the deep safety and then failed to wrap up a tackle on that obscenity of a 99-yard TD completion. The other night, it was Louisville’s safety who was out of position on a 44-yard TD pass to Chris Conley. Mauger, in the meantime, was the kid making tackles and performing well in pass coverage.
They’ve got potential.
If you had any doubt that Mark Richt wanted to send a message to his former defensive coordinator last night, that should have been completely erased at the 4:18 mark in the fourth quarter, when Georgia inserted Nick Chubb back into a 30-14 game. Two minutes later, Chubb blasted into the end zone with the final score of the game, and left Todd Grantham with quite the legacy from the bowl game.
Grantham now has the honor of coaching the defense that allowed Chubb’s single-game rushing total to become the second highest in school history. Chubb set a new Belk Bowl rushing record. And Chubb’s season rushing total has only been bettered by one other Georgia back, Herschel Walker.
Not too shabby.
Throw in a touch of this…
… and I think you could say Georgia touched all the bases. Sweet.
It was the briefest of conversations, but Damian Swann got a chance Saturday to talk again with Todd Grantham. The two ran into each other at a luncheon as part of Belk Bowl festivities.
“He was in line. And I was trying to get back to my food,” Swann said. “So it was kinda like, ‘Hey coach how you doing?’ Just a cordial greeting.”
Everyone has been trying to emphasize cordial feelings when it comes to the Grantham story. He spent four seasons as Georgia’s defensive coordinator before bolting for the same job at Louisville in January. But no bad blood remains, everyone claims.
Georgia head coach Mark Richt ran into Grantham at a coaches reception Friday night. The two and their wives said hello to each other, as well.
That is so nice. It would have been a lot more fun if someone offered to perform the Heimlich maneuver if Grantham looked like he was choking again.
Come Tuesday, somebody had better be behaving badly, or I’m gonna be disappointed. A little ass showing, please. It’s half the reason I’m going to be watching.
UPDATE: This is a little better.
Malcolm Mitchell listed the various reasons for his Georgia team to get up for Tuesday’s Belk Bowl, be it a 10-win season or the seniors.
“And this is a chance for us to beat Coach Grantham,” Mitchell added. “We’ve got to enough motivation.”
… But when it comes to this game, well, offensive lineman Greg Pyke described the Grantham factor as, “It’s not revenge, but it just kind of makes you want to win more.”
… Others like offensive lineman Kolton Houston spent time on Grantham’s field while on scout team.
“We competed against him for so long,” Houston said. “We did it in scrimmages, but in a game setting we want to actually try to go out there and beat him.”
Go get him, boys.
Patrick Garbin has a few choice bones to pick with Todd Grantham’s recent reflections on his time at Georgia.
Now that I think about it, I can’t help but be amused that the guy who almost got into it on the field with James Franklin and flashed the choke sign at Florida’s Chas Henry…
… can stake claim to this:
Last week, Grantham also said, “We changed the culture. We developed a mental and physical toughness there.”
Vaya con Dios, Coach.