ATHENS – Todd Grantham credits much of his career, if not all of it, to the man he will need to beat next week: Nick Saban.
Back in the late 1990s, Saban hired Grantham to be an assistant at Michigan State. The two worked together for three years, and Saban has said often that Grantham was one of the best assistants he’s had.
They faced each other back in 2005, when Grantham was Cleveland’s defensive coordinator and Saban was Miami’s head coach. (Cleveland won, 22-0.) They meet again on Saturday, in the same roles for Georgia and Alabama, with an SEC championship and a spot in the BCS title game at stake.
“He’s one of the reasons that my career has been successful as it’s been,” Grantham said after Saturday’s win over Georgia Tech. “A lot of the things that I believe in philosophically come from him. A lot of the things we do defensively come from him. Defensively we’re very similar in what we do.”
Grantham called Saban a friend, and said the two have spoken “periodically” over the past few years. But not since this season began.
“He’s really good at what he does, there’s a system in place. They’ve got good players, they’ve got good scheme, they’ve got good coaches,” Grantham said. “But we’re gonna be ready too.”
There are plenty of other connections between Alabama and Georgia: Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo (and many Georgia staffers) know Alabama defensive coordinator well. Smart played at Georgia and was a Bulldog assistant in the mid-2000s.
Georgia star linebacker Jarvis Jones got an offer from Alabama out of high school and when he was leaving USC. But he can’t recall visiting. Georgia receiver Malcolm Mitchell said his final two was Georgia and Alabama. Mitchell knows Xzavier Dickson, an Alabama sophomore linebacker, very well.
“It’ll be fun, just to see some of those guys,” Mitchell said.