ATHENS -- For the most part, I stay out of recruiting these days. The AJC’s Michael Carvell does an outstanding job of taking care of that. But it’s hard not to notice the positive impact Todd Grantham has had on Georgia’s recruiting.
What is somewhat unusual is how intensely Grantham is involved in recruiting despite being a defensive coordinator. Oftentimes, coordinators reserve their involvement until late in the process. That’s because they have so much responsibility with regard to game-planning and lineups and the like. But since he arrived in Athens three years ago, Grantham has been as active on the recruiting trail as he has been in the meeting room, and he does it on the front end.
Outside linebacker/defensive-end types such as Sterling Bailey, Ray Drew, Josh Dawson, Josh Harvey-Clemons and Jordan Jenkins have been lining up to come play for Grantham in Athens. The development of All-American Jarvis Jones in Grantham’s fire-zone scheme hasn’t hurt. But, first and foremost, these prospects are getting to know Grantham in recruiting.
I talked to Grantham recently about his philosophy in regarding recruiting and I found his responses to be very interesting. In a nutshell, Grantham sees recruiting as college football’s version of the NFL draft, with which he was involved with for 11 years before becoming the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator
“When I was defensive coordinator in Cleveland, I had a say on the draft board, but I didn’t have final say,” Grantham explained. “At that level, you don’t have the ultimate decision-making power, so you just have to make it work. In college, you have the flexibility to evaluate and recruit whomever you want. And I know this: If you have a talented, raw prospect and you can coach, you can make that guy a good player. It’s easier to coach those kinds of guys. So I like to be involved in it.”
Grantham said he had opportunities to return to college ball before the Bulldogs came calling in 2010. But it was Georgia’s access to an endless stream of talent that got him excited about joining Mark Richt’s staff.
“In pro ball, you have a select number of guys you look at every year and you spend a couple of months dissecting those guys and ranking them,” Grantham said. “The thing that excited me about coming here is, if you go back and look, they’ve been really good on defense here and they’ve had some really good players drafted. I know the type of players they have within of five-hour radius of this school. So the components were there. To me, that was something that was intriguing and excited me about taking this job.”
Evaluation, he said, is the key to identifying the prospects.
“I think you’ve got make sure that you’re bringing in the right kind of guys to your program and that the core of your team is good, the leadership, the locker room,” Grantham said. “You can get a good feel for those guys by being involved in recruiting. Plus, I think it’s important that they know exactly what they’re getting. It’s got to be a good marriage for both. They’ve got to know what they’re coming for and what their expectations are and they’ve got to know what our expectations are. In college you’re allowed to be really involved in that and you can go out and get the players that you want. So that’s why I like to be involved in recruiting. I think it gives you a feel for the chemistry of your team and I think it gives the players a feel for who you are.”
Early projections have Georgia entering the 2012 season as a Top 10 team, and a lot of that has to do with the talent Grantham has coming back on defense. The Bulldogs return nine starters from a unit that finished among the top five nationally in total defense and will boast one of their best front- sevens in years. Suspensions due to off-season discipline issues will delay the top 11 being together for a few games. But Grantham feels his defense has the depth and flexibility it needs whomever is available.
“We’ll get the best players on the field,” he said. “That’s why we do so much cross-training. We had numerous lineups last year. We had quite a few injuries. After the South Carolina game we lost both our starting inside linebackers. . . . So we’re always going to be prepared for situations that come up. It’s real important you don’t pigeon-hole yourself into a situation where you think ‘a guy can only play this or that.’ You want to make sure you can somehow get the next-best guys in the game.”
Thanks to having his hands in recruiting, Grantham thinks those next-best guys will be able to get the job done.