Richt zeroing in on Cowboys' Grantham

Georgia coach Mark Richt has amped up his pursuit of Dallas Cowboys defensive line coach Todd Grantham to be the Bulldogs’ next defensive coordinator.

Richt knows he can’t allow this to drag on much longer, especially with national signing day approaching. Alabama’s Kirby Smart became the third different person to turn down Richt on Monday despite being offered a three-year deal worth $750,000 annually.

Several people close to the situation say Grantham is very interested, but doesn’t want to do anything that would serve as a distraction for the Cowboys during their playoff run.

Richt and Grantham have already talked about the position, according to ESPN.com’s Mark Schlabach. Grantham, 43, owns a vacation home at Lake Oconee, near the Georgia campus in Athens.

Depending on how long the Cowboys last in the playoffs, it could be that Richt goes ahead and names Grantham the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator and that Grantham doesn’t actually begin his coaching duties at Georgia until after the Cowboys are out of the playoffs.

Either way, it’s pretty clear at this point that Grantham is Richt’s main target and has been on Richt’s radar for some time.

Like Smart, Grantham is a Nick Saban disciple and worked under Saban at Michigan State. He’s been on the Cowboys’ staff the last two seasons and was the Cleveland Browns’ defensive coordinator prior to that.

Grantham, who played at Virginia Tech and got his coaching start under Frank Beamer, is well respected among his peers and still comes to speak to Saban and the Alabama staff in the offseason. Saban tried to hire Grantham as his defensive coordinator when Saban went to the Miami Dolphins in 2005, but Grantham opted for the Browns' job instead.

His defense of choice has been the 3-4, which is also the same one Saban runs at Alabama.

Smart, the Frank Broyles Award winner this year as the top assistant coach in college football, has told several people that Georgia did everything right in trying to get him and that turning down his alma mater was excruciatingly difficult. In the end, he just felt like the best move for him professionally was to remain at Alabama under Saban.

The Crimson Tide also sweetened his deal to stay, and while it may not match the $750,000 figure that Georgia was offering, it will at least approach that number and make him one of the highest paid coordinators in the country.

Saban has made it clear he expects the next move Smart makes will be for a head coaching job.