ATHENS, Ga. -- Now that it’s done, Georgia coach Mark Richt doesn’t care what the perception out there is.
He doesn’t care how many people were connected to his lengthy search for a new defensive coordinator. He doesn’t care how many people received big, fat raises because they were connected, and he doesn’t care that some of the people who were connected were never formally offered the job in the first place.
All he cares about is that Todd Grantham is on the job.
“My only goal was to get the right man,” Richt said. “My prayer was regardless of what path I took that in the end I’d get the very best man for the job, and we got that in Todd. I’m 100 percent convinced of that.”
A new era for Georgia’s defense begins later Thursday afternoon when the Bulldogs open spring practice. Grantham, who comes over from the NFL, brings a 3-4 defense with him that is becoming the rage in college football.
It’s very similar to the two defensive schemes we saw in the BCS National Championship Game this past season. Alabama runs it, and so does Texas.
The common denominator there is Nick Saban. Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp worked under Saban, and so did Grantham at Michigan State.
In fact, Saban tried to hire Grantham as his defensive coordinator when Saban took the Miami Dolphins’ head coaching job. But Grantham picked the Cleveland Browns’ coordinator job instead because it was closer to his family’s home in Pulaski, Va.
"I worked under Dom Capers, and he's a 3-4 guy, too. So is Wade Phillips," Grantham said. "They all have their things you take from them."
Simply, it’s a defense predicated upon hitting the quarterback and making that guy’s life miserable on Saturday afternoons.
And the only stat that really matters to Grantham is winning.
“We want to attack people,” Grantham said. “And when I say that, that doesn’t mean you’re always blitzing. You’re attacking them mentally and physically. The most important guy on the field is the quarterback. If you look at all the teams that win, usually at the end of the year, their quarterback probably played well.
“So, defensively, you have to stop the run, but you also have to affect the quarterback. You can do that multiple ways. One is with pressure and the next way is by disguise. The quarterback likes to get a pre-snap read and know where he’s going to throw the ball. You’d like to be able to show something and then take it away.”
Speaking of taking it away, the Bulldogs were last in the league a year ago with 12 takeaways, including just two forced fumbles.
“We had some fumbles last year we just didn’t get on and some passes that were going to be intercepted and bounced off people’s helmets and things like that, but we’ve just got to make more things happen on defense,” Georgia junior cornerback Brandon Boykin said. “In this defense, we’re not going to sit back. We’re going to pressure, and that starts with getting after the quarterback.”
Grantham’s other goal for this spring is to become a more physical defense.
“Being physical is being a good tackling team, because what that does is eliminate big plays, which goes hand in hand with not giving up a lot of points,” Grantham said. “If you’re giving up points, then you’re probably giving up big plays. But if you make teams go the long, hard way and don’t give up big plays and make them earn it, then you can usually find a way to stop them.
“So I want us to do all those things and be fundamentally sound, and then when we’re done playing, the other team is excited they don’t have to play us anymore.”
Richt is excited to see this new-look defense on the field after watching the Bulldogs give up 34 or more points 10 times over the past two seasons.
He was diligent in settling on Grantham and concedes that he talked to a number of people during the search process. Alabama’s Kirby Smart turned down a lucrative offer to return to his alma mater, while LSU’s John Chavis, Virginia Tech’s Bud Foster and Illinois’ Vic Koenning were all guys Richt talked to about the job.
All those guys ended up getting sweeter deals where they were, but Richt said that doesn’t mean there was ever a pecking order. After all, Grantham got a pretty sweet deal himself -- a three-year contract worth $750,000 per year.
“I don’t want to get into [who he offered the job to and who he didn’t],” Richt said. “People are going to think and believe what they want to. What I believe is that we got the best man for this job, and he’s already done a great job of creating excitement within the staff and within our players.
“I think our fans are getting jacked, too, and are anxious to see what it’s going to look like.”