No-non-sense, defensive coordinator wants wins no matter the situation
by Murray Poole
photo by Rob Saye
Georgia’s second-year defensive coordinator, Todd Grantham, is a no-nonsense
kind of guy.
He shoots straight from the hip in discussing how he wants his Bulldog
defenders to perform and get things done out on the playing field.
And, in a way, that’s most refreshing this day and time … people telling you exactly
what they think and not beating around the bush and giving you just what you
might like to hear.
For instance, when asked by Bulldog Illustrated
to list the top five goals for his defense this fall,
Grantham said he has only one goal that matters.
“The first thing, I want to win,” declared
Grantham. “I don’t think there’s any more after that.
Whatever the situation is we’re going to win. If we’re
up 6-3, we’re gonna hold them, if it’s 30 to 30 in overtime,
we’ve got to stop them,” Grantham said. “If they
get in the red zone, you’ve got to make them kick field
goals. If they’ve got the ball on third down, you’ve got
to stop them. But really the most important goal is to
improve wins so whatever it takes to do that, that’s
what we’re going to do.”
In other words, it doesn’t matter to Grantham so
much how his defensive players go about it, at the end
of the day his only concern is that the opposing team
has less points than Georgia has.
After the Bulldogs have had a full season to buy
into Grantham’s 3-4 defensive scheme, the Georgia
coordinator believes his unit is miles ahead of where
it was last August at this time but still, as the Bulldogs
begin preparing to slow down Boise State’s explosive
attack in the Sept. 3 season opener at the Georgia
Dome, Grantham continues to look for more competitiveness
from his players.
“The guys that have been here and been in our
system, they know what we expect and I’ve been
pleased with what they’ve done,” said Grantham.
“And you can tell they’ve busted their tails in the offseason.
I think that the guys (Dream Team class) that
have come in are talented but you know it takes more
than talent. It takes knowing our system, knowing
what to do and how to do it, it takes playing fast and
it takes 11 guys on the field at the same time. So if
you’re on the field and you’re wearing a defensive jersey for us, you better understand
the things we want and be ready to perform,” he said. “We’ve got some players who
are competing and some players that need to learn how to compete.”
The Bulldogs’ starting inside linebackers, junior Christian Robinson and sophomore
Alec Ogletree, feel the defense has made great strides and will be a vastly improved
unit this season, after giving up 22 points a game and being last in the SEC
at stopping teams on third down in 2010.
“We need to be aggressive in attacking, be disciplined in executing and ultimately
win,” said Robinson, the duly appointed leader of the Georgia defense. “Those
will be the things we need to do to get to where we want to be. The big difference
this year over last year will be just reacting instead of out there just thinking.
“Basically, everybody knowing what to do and
getting to the ball is our biggest thing,” said Ogletree.
“We need everybody to the ball every time. If we can
do that we have a shot at being a pretty good defense.
It’s a whole lot different on the field than it
was last year. Everybody’s attitude is totally different
as far as wanting to get to the ball. Everybody wants
to be playmakers so we’ve taken it upon ourselves to
work hard this year.”
An important cog in the Bulldogs’ overall defensive
production this year will be senior All-America
punter Drew Butler. Once again, Butler’s
booming kicks will be vital in backing up the opposing
team’s offense and thus giving the Georgia
defense excellent field position from which to work.
“You can tell definitely those guys are reacting
more than thinking out there on the practice field
and have really grasped what Coach Grantham
wants them to do and they’ve brought it every day
in practice,” said Butler. “Our defense has got a lot
of speed, they’ve got a lot of fire and they’re making
plays which is the most important thing. So I think
that’s what Coach Grantham wants to see and like I
say, there’s a lot of time between now and Sept. 3
but hopefully things can come around and they can
really make an impact on game day.”
After averaging a nation-leading 48.1 yards a
punt in 2009 when he won the coveted Ray Guy
Award, Butler, the son of Georgia all-time kicking
legend Kevin Butler, came back with a 44.5 average
in his junior season last fall. He’s shooting for his
most effective season yet in 2011, which will only
be a greater plus for the UGA defense and the team
as a whole.
“I think my main goal this year is to try and take
the year I had in 2009 and the year I had in 2010 and kind of bundle them together,”
Butler said. “I feel like I was a better team punter last year, got a lot more hang time,
limited return yards a lot, and I just kind of want to take that power and finesse I’ve
had the past two years and put them into one, have a complete season that will kind
of catapult me the rest of my career.”