Monday, March 1, 2010

Q & A with Todd Grantham

Friday evening, Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham spent approximately 17 minutes fielding questions from Bulldog beat writers.

Among the subjects, his initial impression with the talent he'll have at his disposal, plus his thoughts on recruiting thus far.

The following is what he had to say.

Q - What has been your first impression of the players you will have at your disposal?

A - "After working with them on Mat Drills, I'm excited to get spring started. I'm looking forward to getting these guys on the grass and seeing what they can do with some pads on. I'm real pleased with the players that we have here and I'm encouraged by their effort. From what I've seen in Mat Drills you're working to develop discipline and mental toughness and that's the thing you're trying to develop there and I've been very pleased with the progress made in those areas."

Q - Can you explain what you're looking for from your outside backers, inside backers the ends and the responsibilities of each?

A - "As an outside backer, you're an edge rusher so you've got to have some athletic ability, you've got to have some flexibility. You've got to be able to bend your body and get to the quarterback.
You've also got to have the ability to do some drops, most of the time it's a flat or a hook, but it's a short area drop. You've also got to have the ability to tackle in space because there's more range from the end of the tackle to the sideline sometimes so you've got to have the range right there.
"As an inside backer, you've got to have similar skill sets in terms of athletic ability; you've probably got a little more range, a little more of an ability to close to a guy in space. You've got more coverage responsibility as an inside linebacker, in other words you've got more areas, more zones, more matches, different matches, a little bit different run-fits. You're not going to rush the passer as much although it's still important you can do that, it's a different kind of rush. Coming off the edge, you're going to engage the tackle, be one-on-one with a tackle usually and we want to get backs, which I feel we will win those battles but we expect to get big guys, offensive tackles on our guys coming off the edge whereas when you come up the middle you usually get on backs inside, so it's a different kind of rush.
"As far as our ends, our D-linemen in general, they're going to have some pass rush. They're generally bigger guys, thicker guys; they still have the length you look for but they may not have the skill set as an outside backer would have. But they're not asked to do the same kind of things because they're bigger guys. Really, when you talk about defensive linemen you're talking about guys you want to be physical at the point, physical at the line of scrimmage. You want guys that have some stoutness to them and can knock guys back and penetrate but yet have enough athletic ability that they can shed guys, escape blockers and they can win some one-on-one matchups inside, not only to disrupt the quarterback in the pass game, but also make some plays in the run game. That's the skill set of those three people."

Q - What's it been like getting your hands wet with recruiting along with trying to get your program built on defense?

A - "I've been really excited; I'm really pleased with the way recruiting is going. Basically, the way we've structured our meetings is we're working half days on recruiting, and then the other half to three-quarters of a day we're working on football, so that's more than a day, right? Basically, we're working a day-an-half within a day. Seriously, what we're trying to do is handle recruiting, evaluate all the players in the state of Georgia. I've been really excited with the players I've seen on tape, the talent that I expected to see is here and I'm excited to get guys on our campus and show them what we offer defensively, as well as what the University of Georgia offers. If we do that, like I told you before, if we can just get guys within a five-hour radius to come to our school, we can become very competitive and based on what I've seen on tape it's exceeded my expectations."

Q - Explain the dynamics of the defensive coaching staff and the strengths you feel the group brings?

A - "I think the critical thing is to make sure everybody's on the same page, making sure we understand what we're trying to get accomplished, making sure the language that we're talking is all the same because the guys that we hired I feel are good teachers. The big thing you've got to do when you're installing something new is be very precise in how you install it, you've got to be very consistent, you've got to all talk in the same language, make sure you're all on the same page so that the players understand and really that's what we've been trying to do as a staff."

Q - Will any of the defensive terminology be the same as last year?

A - "We're going to use our language, there might be something where a guy can say "same as" but the terminology we'll use is what I'm used to."

Q - How excited are the guys that they will be able to go after the quarterback?

A - "In general, players want to make plays so I think that's the big thing; I think that players want to win and players want to make plays. I think players also want to please the coach or they want to have success, look at it that way and as a coach if you can make players understand that you have their interest at heart, that you can make them a better player, they pay attention and I think they'll give you the effort that it takes to be successful because sometimes it comes down to winning a one-on-one matchup. You've got to be able to do those things. You can do those with technique, you can do that with athletic ability; the combination of both allows you to win more often than not so I'm looking forward to getting on the grass and letting them fly around with some pads on."

Q - What have been the biggest questions recruits have had for you?

A - "I think the biggest thing is just where guys would play. There's a little bit of an unknown about what is it, where would I fit in and I think that's the big thing about recruiting is you're developing a relationship with players, but you're also educating them on how they would fit in because it's a two-way street. We want to make sure we're getting guys that are going to allow us to win the SEC but at the same time, we want to make sure they understand how we're going to utilize them and how they would fit into our program because when they get here we want to make sure that they're happy and that everybody understands what's expected."

Q - How much of your system do you expect to install during the spring?

A - "It's important that we install our system, for first and second down on all the different personnel groups we're going to see; it's important we develop a third-down package, it's real critical that we identify the players that will help us compete for an SEC Championship and really define the roles for the players. I think it's critical you define the roles for each player so when they leave for the summer, here's what you can do to improve yourself, here's what you can work on so when we come back everybody's got an understanding.
"It's also important that we work on all the different offenses that we're going to see so when it comes Week 7 that we see something that may be a little different; we're fully ready for it. It's going to be a busy spring."

Q - How important will it be for your players to cross-train?

A - "I think the biggest thing is you need to have flexibility in your systems and the players need flexibility because I've always said you evaluate your players 1-50. If somebody gets hurt you want to put the next-best player in the game so I think it's important that players are flexible, that they can adjust and that they can play more than one position so we will have more than those guys in there to see how they can do to give us some depth. I've always been a big believer that injury creates depth. Sometimes you're afraid to put a guy in there then all of a sudden a guy gets hurt and you're forced to then all of a sudden it's like 'Hey, this guy can play' then the other guy comes back and you've got depth. So I've always believed that injury creates depth and that's why it's critical that guys learn more than one spot so to allow you to get the best players on the field. Scheme is important we're going to have a good scheme, but fundamentals area really critical and to have players that can make plays is critical. To make plays you've got to have your best players on the field, so it's going to be real critical to have your best players on the field."

Q - You've said DeAngelo Tyson and Kwame Geathers will play nose, what about Brandon Wood?

A - "He can play in there, he will be an end but he will play in there."

Q - What about DeMarcus Dobbs?

A - "Yes, again, anybody who plays end can play nose."

Q - Have you determined what players will play outside linebacker?

A - "Justin Houston will be an outside backer, Cornelius (Washington) will be an outside backer, Montez (Robinson) will be an outside backer. Richard Samuel will start as an outside backer for now."

Q - Where will Abry Jones play?

A - "Abry will start out as an end but again he will be a guy who can also play nose."


Q - What are your expectations for Richard Samuel?

A - "Basically with him it's just to let him get his feet wet with being a defensive player. We'll teach him the techniques, he's going to be raw but we want to let him go out and improve every day and as long as he does that and showcase his athletic ability, which he does. He's done an excellent job to date, I think it will be a growing process for him. I just want him to work every day to get better, just get his feet wet and the mindset that now you're chasing the guy with the ball. He'll have an understand of what's going to happen to him because sometime when you've got an offensive perspective, you have a feel for the formation that the ball's going here because you've been over there and understand that. So I think those things will help him. We're going to teach him to play with his hands, to shed blocks, tackle and finish the play. Those are things we will work on but athletically he has shown the skills that are needed, so I look forward to getting him out there in the spring."

Q - Could Richard redshirt?

A - "We have that (option) but right now we're just focused on getting guys ready for next year."

Q - Are there any bad habits you need to get your players to change?

A - "The only thing I did was when I came here was to evaluate the players and just get a feel for their athletic ability, where I thought they would fit in our scheme and as we move forward I'm just interested in making them better players, make them fundamentally sound in what we want them to and that's the approach we're going to take. We're going to introduce our system to them but I think it's real critical that you develop your fundamentals in spring practice and that goes to attacking blockers, playing with your hands, shedding blocks understand where the ball carriers in relative to your position and tackling.
"There's all kind of different tackling. There's inline tackling, there's angle tackling, there's in space one-on-one, there's space with another guy, inside outside; there's space sideline tackling. We'll expose them to all kinds of tackling but I think it's real critical that you develop those fundamentals in spring practice because it is a fundamental game; it's about attacking blocker, knocking a guy back, blocking and finishing the play. Those are the things we're going to emphasize."

Q - What have your meetings been like with the players so far?

A - "It's been very general. We've had them watch some tape, but I don't think there's anything like being on the field. So even though they've seen it, I think until you can go out and do it, that's the best way guys learn, to get a real feel for it."

Q - Is there much difference coaching professional players as opposed to those in college?

A - "Not really, most players generally want to succeed. You obviously have a different daily schedule, but you still have your meeting times and your development with the players. I feel like as a coach right now they really have, sometimes you have a veteran player it's hard to change that guy. But these guys are so young sometimes they don't have habits at all, so that can be a good thing, too. I don't think there's ultimately any difference. Players want to play, players want to have success and if you can get players to buy into your product, they will generally play hard. If players play hard, they're generally going to succeed."

Courtesy of Rivals