Even if most of Georgia’s roster wasn’t around when Todd Grantham on staff, there is still plenty of familiarity with his defense.
Grantham and his successor, Jeremy Pruitt, run similar variations of the 3-4 defense. Georgia head coach Kirby Smart and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker also run a like-minded scheme.
Therefore, the changes haven’t been too dramatic for Georgia’s defense, or for the offense that has to practice against it each day.
“It really helps a lot because our defense is kind of similar to Mississippi State’s,” left tackle Isaiah Wynn said. “We just get a lot of good looks. Our D-line is fantastic. I think those guys up front are great. Day in and day out we’re constantly getting a good look.”
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Grantham was Georgia’s defensive coordinator for four years from 2010-13. His on-field results were a mixed bag, however. His unit finished fourth in the SEC in total defense in 2010 (328.5 yards per game) and 2011 (277.2). In 2012, Grantham’s defense slid to an SEC ranking of sixth in total defense (357.8) – despite competing for a conference championship with future NFL players Jarvis Jones, Alec Ogletree, John Jenkins, Abry Jones, Corey Moore, Bacarri Rambo, Damian Swan and Sanders Commings on the roster.
In Grantham’s final season with Georgia in 2013, the defense dipped to an eighth-place showing in the SEC by allowing 375.5 total yards per game. This mark checked in 45th nationally. Grantham then made the decision to take the defensive coordinator job at Louisville.
The only time since that Georgia has faced Grantham came in the 2014 Belk Bowl, with the Bulldogs blowing Louisville out 37-14. Running back Nick Chubb had one of the best games of his career in that game by rushing for 266 yards and two touchdowns as a true freshman.
But over the past year and three games, things have become favorable for Grantham. Last season, Louisville’s defense ranked 14th nationally. Through three games in his first season with Mississippi State, Grantham’s defense ranks fourth in the nation by allowing only 206 total yards per game.
Against LSU last week, Mississippi State held the Tigers to seven points and 270 total yards. That kind of performance has certainly grabbed Georgia’s attention.
“I think Todd does a tremendous job,” Smart said. “He's very smart, very knowledgeable, knows how to attack protections. He's a guy that's constantly working on getting better. He's got these guys believing and playing really hard, really physical.”
Some of the players remembered Grantham recruiting them before his decision to head to Louisville.
Outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter was among those and said he enjoyed getting to know Grantham during the recruiting process.
“He’s an electric guy, a lot of energy,” Carter said. “He values pass rushing. I’m sure they’re going to bring that.”
Grantham hasn’t spoken much publicly about his time at Georgia since his decision to leave. While The Telegraph wasn’t granted an interview with Grantham, he told the Athens Banner-Herald that he has “a lot of great memories” from his time on Georgia’s staff.
Asked by the local Mississippi State reporters about returning to Georgia, Grantham turned his attention to what he sees as more important – securing a win in SEC play.
“It’s another SEC game for us,” Grantham said. “It’s a road game. It’s our second conference game, which is the most important thing. I just want to make sure that we continue to prepare the right way and go out and play a talented Georgia team.”