Grantham Gets to Work

ATHENS – Todd Grantham's first few days as Georgia's defensive coordinator have been a whirlwind to say the least.

He arrived in Athens on Wednesday night, passed his recruiting exam with flying colors and was out on the road Thursday talking to recruits. Friday he met with the media and was introduced for the first time to his current players.

Meanwhile Grantham's starting to break down film on his players, start devising a depth chart and there's still the small matter of filling out his staff with one final coaching hire.

Of course, all the items on his to-do list only serve as a reminder of why he took the job in the first place.

"I looked at this as a chance to come to a program that has won, that is hungry and that has been successful, and you can help bridge that back to the way it was," Grantham said. "So that's what excited me about this job."

He'll need to keep that excitement level high in the coming weeks as signing day approaches, offseason conditioning begins and the demands for his time are stretched thinner by the day.

-- On filling out his staff:

Contrary to some early buzz that Georgia might forego its final defensive coaching position in favor of a full-time special teams coordinator, Grantham said the expectation is to hire an additional linebackers coach. While he'll handle much of the linebacker duty himself, he said Rodney Garner will take over the full defensive line and newly hired Scott Lakatos will coach the secondary with an additional coach coming in to oversee either the inside or outside linebackers.

As to how soon that hire might come, however, Grantham said there was no strict timetable, and that finding the right person for the job far outweighed making a quick hire.

"I think we're very flexible on it," Grantham said. "It could be soon, it could be late, but as Mark and I talk over the course of the next few weeks, we're going to get the right guy in here so we can have a solid staff from a teaching standpoint. I think teaching is very critical."

-- On player evaluation:

Grantham had his graduate assistants put together film of 25 to 30 plays of each of his current crop of defensive players to allow the new coaches to get a better understanding of what they have to work with.

"It's going to describe what the player does well and how the player would best fit in to what we want to do," Grantham said.

Identifying roles will be an intricate task as Grantham works to implement his 3-4 scheme with players who were recruited for and have always played in a 4-3 base.

While that will no doubt require a significant evaluation by Grantham and his staff, he said his goal is to have some flexibility with players and to get his biggest playmakers on the field as often as possible.

"We'll be evaluating their work ethic and those types of things and then when spring practice starts, the actual classroom stuff, the physical football stuff," Grantham said. ‘It's a process that will be ongoing all the way up to next year. But you've got to start somewhere and we're going to start with the evaluation of what they've done so far."

That evaluation will continue all the way through the start of the season, Grantham said, and he's planning to encourage plenty of competition by opening up all jobs and asking his players to earn their playing time.

"I think competition makes everybody better, and I think you have to work to win a position before you can help us win a game," Grantham said. "So what you do is you coach each player, and the bottom line is you're going to put the players out there that are going to be the most productive."

-- On recruiting:

Grantham got his first taste of recruiting in more than a decade Thursday, but he said it was still old hat. After working to keep mutli-millionaires happy in the pros, relating to high school athletes and selling them on the Georgia program isn't a problem, he said.

Of course, finding the right players for his system could be a bit more of a reach for the time being. Grantham said there isn't likely to be a big deviation from the players the Bulldogs were already recruiting, and he said his scheme allows for some athletes who lack the traditional physique to fill key roles, like nose tackle.

"We're going to be more of a one-gap team, so you can play with guys that are like that," Grantham said. "As we move forward, we'll have a standard for what we're looking for down the road, but right now I think it's important to take the players you have and find ways to fit them into your system."

But make no mistake, Grantham plans to hit the recruiting trail hard in the final two weeks before signing day, and long term, his goal is to build a wall around the state of Georgia.

"If we took the best players in the state of Georgia and within a five-hour radius of our school, and they come to University of Georgia, we can win the SEC championship and compete for a national title," Grantham said. "And I think you can be better than Florida, you can be better than Texas and you can be better than Southern Cal if those players came to the University of Georgia."

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