Move over, Atlanta Falcons. Your coaching story lines aren’t anything compared to what Georgia Bulldogs coach Mark Richt is going to be dealing with over his off-season. Only days after secondary coach Scott Lakatos resigned because of personal reasons, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham jumped ship to the Louisville Cardinals for $5 million and the opportunity to lead his new team’s defense to success in the ACC Atlantic Division against the defending NCAA champions and Clemson.
That should be fun.
In the wake of the big news yesterday, many sports pundits began chiming in with their opinions and analysis of Grantham’s move, and the consensus seems to be that this is good news for the Georgia Bulldogs. When you look at the defensive numbers over the past two seasons, you can begin to understand why.
In a recent post from Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he mentions that Georgia’s defense was often mediocre or bad despite talented players filling out the roster:
But he wasn’t very good as a defensive coordinator at Georgia. He often had tremendous talent to work with – particularly in 2012, when the Dogs’ defense included seven future NFL draft picks, including four in the first three rounds – but the end result was underwhelming. This season, with a younger cast of players, Georgia ranked eighth in total defense in the SEC and 10th in pass defense.
According to NCAA statistics, Georgia ranked just 45th in total defense among FBS teams last season. The Bulldogs finished behind teams like Wake Forest, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, East Carolina and Maryland among others–teams that Georgia out-recruits almost every year.
Obviously, a coach can’t get all of the blame for these things–the players still have to show up and play–but most people would say the teams should have performed better, given the caliber of players Grantham had available. I’m not going to claim being an expert on Grantham, of course, but the numbers and the words of many who have been following him since he’s been with the Dawgs all point to a disappointing stretch for the defense.
Now, Mark Richt is going to have to find a new defensive coordinator in addition to a new secondary coach. This could be a blessing in disguise, as it gives Richt the chance to start fresh, but it is clearly going to be a big decision. Anthony Dasher of UGASports.com said that “This will undoubtedly be the biggest hire in Mark Richt’s career as the Bulldogs’ head coach.” It very well could be.
AJC columnist Mark Bradley wrote about where UGA will turn after this, and mentions several potential candidates, but also acknowledges that anything is possible:
It’s possible Richt could choose, especially at this late date, to stay in-house and bump up linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti. But let’s face it: In a world where the famous failure Lane Kiffin can land at Alabama as offensive coordinator, what isn’t possible?
Manny Diaz (former Texas DC), Kirby Smart (Alabama DC) and Pat Narduzzi (Michigan State DC) were all mentioned as possibilities to fill the void for the Bulldogs, but Bradley did write that the latter two were long shots. Previously mentioned UGASports.com writer Anthony Dasher also put Smart on his list of potential defensive coordinators, in addition to Florida State defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.
I feel like Pruitt is definitely a long shot to move from his job with the Seminoles. He’s been rumored to be a fit for some NFL teams and even if he were to stay in college, I don’t see why he’d want to leave his role with FSU–where he’s done a phenomenal job building up recruiting classes and coming off of a national championship–to go to Georgia.
Speaking of recruits, some argue that the biggest real difference this will have for the Dawgs are the decisions of current and potential commits to the program. I’d probably disagree with that notion, but I also have the hindsight of seeing what some recruits have said about Grantham’s move.
Three of the four current UGA commits that Michael Carvell (again, of the AJC) quoted in the story linked above said that Grantham’s move didn’t make a difference in their decision. The fourth–three-star safety Kendall Gant–said that he didn’t know yet because he hasn’t talked to a coach. I would be very surprised if an unusual number of recruits started de-committing from the program because of this, but Grantham was known to be a good–and involved–recruiter.
So, unless you buy into the idea that recruits won’t want to come to Georgia now, I’d say this is a great opportunity for Richt and the Bulldog defense to take a step forward. Grantham’s defensive units have struggling in the past two seasons and bringing in a different defensive coordinator, in addition to a new secondary coach, could be what the team needs to revitalize a formally intense defensive team.
I have no idea who could be coming to Georgia (does anyone outside of the program really have an idea?), but I am pretty confident that team will be better off with whoever Mark Richt decides to bring in.
Stay tuned as this story develops, we’ll be sure to bring you the news when it happens.