UF’s new defensive coordinator Grantham talks schemes

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Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. [Alan Youngblood/Gainesville Sun]

Since taking the job as Florida’s defensive coordinator on Jan. 3, there has been a great deal of speculation about what kind of scheme Todd Grantham will install.

Will it be a 3-4? A 4-3? Or a combination of both?

He put it in succinct terms Tuesday in his first opportunity with the media.

“That whole thing about 3-4, 4-3, to me it’s really about we’re a 3-4 structure, but we play four down and three down and we’re going to find ways to get our best players on the field,” Grantham said. “And we’re going to change every year relevant to the playmakers. Because defense is about winning your one-on-one matchups.

“There’s a certain identity that you need to play with to be good, which is really what we’re starting with our players right now is trying to find that identity to what we want to be, which is fast, physical and aggressive in our play.”

Like Dan Mullen and the other Florida coaches, Grantham has spent most of his time recruiting since he’s been at UF. Now that that’s over, he’s starting to get to know the players and gain an idea about the talent he’s going to be working with this spring.

One of the things he’s been doing is watching tape of all the returning defensive players.

“The (graduate assistants) basically made a 25-30 play tape of everybody that’s coming back and we kind of went through those tapes and preliminarily put guys in positions to see what best combinations of players give us a chance to win the game,” Grantham said. “We’re really in the early stages of it right now. It’s really about getting your best 11 players on the field at one time.

“You want to find ways to get your best players on the field and you want to always find ways to match them up so they can have success. Because the game is about matchups. It’s about tackling the guy with the ball. And how can we win our one-on-one matchups.”

In an attempt to identify those 11 best, Grantham said most of the defensive players will be trained on more than one position and asked to carry out multiple roles.

Senior Cece Jefferson, for instance, will play end and linebacker. Numerous defensive backs also will play a hybrid position where they have some outside linebacker responsibilities.

“We’re going to work to cross-train guys, so guys will play more than one position because with the way your defensive backs are and the way your outside ’backers are, you’re going to play multiple things,” Grantham said. “So, we’re going to teach guys to play multiple positions, cross-train those guys to put them in the best position to play, but also what combination of players gives us the best chance to play that game? That’s really the whole thing to me is how can we get our players in position to be successful with what we’re doing.”

Spring practice doesn’t open for another month, but Grantham said he’s already getting a feel for the kind of talent he’ll be working with.

At the moment the players are going through a physically and mentally demanding offseason conditioning program that consists of morning and afternoon workouts.

Those have been telling, Grantham said.

“I really like the way our players approach what we ask them to do,” he said. “We’re working hard to develop the identity that we need. We’re working hard to develop the habitual traits you need to be successful in this league. We’re not there yet, but we have the right mindset and the right attitude that will get us where we need to be.

“Athletically, I like the guys that we have. I think that we have pieces in place. We’ve just got to put them together. The biggest thing is I like the approach our guys take on a daily basis to try to do the things we’re asking them to do, because it’s not easy and it’s probably harder than it’s been on them in a while. And they’re doing it the right way.”

Once the players get on the field this spring, Grantham’s defense will be in full-attack mode.

Wherever he’s been, his defenses have been fast, aggressive and blitzing.

“Everybody says we like to blitz. We actually do pressure,” Grantham said. “My thought on that is the two things you have to do to play good defense. No. 1, you have to stop the run. Can’t have people run the ball on you.

“Then the next thing is you’ve got to make the quarterback play bad. So how do you make the quarterback play bad? That goes to disguise. That goes to jams and re-routes. That goes to what we term as pattern-match zone coverages, but it’s also pressuring the guy.

“At the end of the day, it’s how do you affect the run and not let other people effectively run the ball, and then how you get pressure and make the quarterback you’re playing against play bad.”

One of the key players in pressuring the quarterback figures to be Jefferson, who made the decision to return for his senior year rather than enter the NFL draft.

Jefferson has emerged as a team leader during the offseason strength and conditioning program, Grantham said.

“He’s a guy that’s really embraced everything we’ve done from that standpoint to want to be a complete player,” he said. “And what we’re going to do with him is just take it day by day and try to get a little bit better and try to work to let him be the best player he can be and be a dominant player on our team.”

17 COMMENTS

  1. I like Todd Grantham’s D approach and philosophy.
    You build your D strategy based upon your players strengths and you get the right combinations on the field. It is not a vanilla strategy , it is situational and play by play. Schemes have to adjust to stop the run and to interrupt the QB. Conditioning is key. You have to build strength and endurance.
    Fast, physical and aggressive have always been the hallmarks of great Gator D’s. We haven’t had all three of those pillars consistentlyhere in quite a while. That combination will work well for us against the best that the SEC can throw at us.
    I expect that in this new system that those players who buy into this approach and philosophy will play more and excel and those that don’t buy-in will not succeed and see the bench more. It;s merit based. That’s how it should be.
    I think

    • We haven’t had all three of those pillars consistently here in quite a while.

      WM defense was first class. So i do not know what you are speaking of.
      Mc beginning good W-L record was achieved because of WM def.

      I like TG so far. WM players are almost all gone, so Def will have to be rebuilt.
      so what i am saying is that 2018 def may not be great and it will not be TG fault.

  2. Really like what I am hearing about how the Florida D is being prepared. More of a NFL mindset – how do we put the best players together on the field at the same time and execute the best possible defense? We do know that our former HC who is now the South Carolina HC knows how to recruit, prepare and execute defense. Thank you, Will Muschamp, for accomplishing this. I believe our current coaching staff will return the Gators to competing for the Eastern Division and SEC titles within 2-3 years. GO GATORS!!!

    • SEC East will not be easy to win for the next 5 years. (like it was for the last 5 years).
      UG is clearly the team to beat. We could be seeing UG vs Bama championship for a while.

      UG – is ahead of UF now. It will not be easy to beat them in the near future.

      I would be happy for UF to finish 2nd next year.
      After we see second year recruiting, then we will have a better idea if UF will be able to catch UG anytime soon.

      • You have way to much faith in Kirby Dumb, he got conservative against his former boss and choked, yes, he had a great recruiting class but the state of Georgia was loaded with talent and he kept them in state, that won’t happen every year, it is not hard to recruit Georgia fans to come play for you. Kirby like every other Saban assistant will never beat Saban, 12 and 0 folks against his former coaches, Saban’s former coaches are just not leaders. You can give up and say we can’t win the east. Ah, we can, and Mullen thinks we can, its Kirby Dumb we are going against, that is good enough in my book. He lost a ton of talent on offense and he cant coach an offence to save his life. Go Gators ! We always beat the Dawg’s. Our Probation period with another Saban assistant is over, Thank God.

  3. Let me make something clear before I make my comment. I am not a football coach nor do I claim having any expertise in rating a player’s ability other than what I’ve seen in 60 years of being a football fan and having watched a lot of games. Having said that, my question is: What makes Coach Grantham certain that the players can be coached to play multiple positions when we’ve seen that they haven’t been coached in several years to play one position with any great deal of success? I truly hope the position coaches can pull it off.

    • Well, let me make this clear as well, oldman. I’m not either but I did play one on TV once. No, wait…that was some guy named Red Skelton.

      So if I understand correctly, you’re focusing on the players general lack of being trained that way from junior high through high school and college so far. Damn good question, bud. I can’t answer that, actually, but what I like about the idea is that it breaks the damn paradigm–which we need to do anyway at this point in time–and it shows a lot of confidence in the athletes we have and will have as time goes on. Besides, the look on Grantham’s face tells me he’ll eat theirs (faces, that is) if they don’t! I think this guy is all bidness and won’t be running for Mr Nice Guy anytime soon.

      • If you remember Red Skelton you are OLD. Oh, man, but he was funny and didn’t have to use profanity or sex jokes for 3/4 of his routine. Anyway, you pretty much got what I was saying except I wasn’t really blaming the high school or junior high coaches before the athletes enrolled at UF. Most of the bad coaching came from the coach now at S. Carolina and the coach from Rocky Mountain High that I refuse to name. I think the Gators have some good athletes but have received lousy coaching. I’d like to see Grantham run about an 8 week basic training style boot camp and see what happens.

        • Defense was never the problem with Muschamp or with Collins or Shannon. I like Mullen so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt on Grantham. But it’s going to take more than talk to get me excited. Oh, and Clem Kadiddlehopper cracked me up every time.

    • I think the concern about multiple positions is legit. However, my expectation is that a lot of times the assignments of a DE and an outside linebacker in the 3-4 are very similar. Rushing the passer is rushing the passer, for example, so if they are in a 3-4 set and send one of the outside linebackers on a blitz it isn’t a radically different skill set. Sometimes one of the linebackers will even get down in a three or four point stance just like a DE would do.

      Other stuff could be more challenging– like pass coverage, but in zone blitz schemes the linemen often drop into coverage, so again it may not be a radically different assignment to drop into a zone from the linebacker position verses a DE spot.. I read a book Bill Arnsparger wrote and he talked about his philosophy was to always send 5 guys, but in the 3-4 there are a lot more varieties of five to confuse the oline.

      Anyway, that may be babble, but the main thing is we are going to find out when the team takes the field!

  4. Who would have thought 18 months ago you would have more love for Todd Grantham than for Jim McElwain? Let’s assess this. We all hated Grantham for what he did to Chas Henry right before his kick in the UF-UGA game in 2010 (You rule, Chas), but that was balls for TG playing head games for his team. I love that. Sell out for your team. Instead of shark loving butter teeth, who sold out his own team, because he wanted to cover up how horrible of an HBC, recruiter, and generally a leader of young men he actually was. Call me cruel, call me an a-hole..If I am that far off base, tell me right now what HBC, or even OC positions, coach Mr. Ed is being considered for.

  5. The gut-wrenching that Gator Nation has gone through over the last 10 years has given me an appreciation for coaching staffs that know what they’re doing and can defeat opponents as a result of hard work and skill in their jobs. We’ve spiraled downward over those years and crashed into a smoking hole under Mac & staff’s incompetence. Cannot believe that Foley hired those clowns, but now is a new day with a HBC and staff that know how to coach this game. I know we haven’t played a game yet and don’t expect miracles this year but I haven’t felt this comfortable in what seems like forever.

    • I’m feeling the same way Tuna. I think Chump was/is a great DC and his downfall at UF (USC remains to be seen) is an immaturity (or is it a permanent personality flaw) that wouldn’t allow him to hire the best OC he could and let him recruit that side of the ball and have free rein in running the offense. McElteeth was just in over his head. I’m looking forward to seeing what Coach Mullen and his much more qualified staff can do with this roster.

      • Chump seemed like one of those D coordinators who looked at the offense as a plague, something ugly he had to deal with but mostly just wanted to serve as a support unit for the defense– meaning, eat the clock, don’t turn the ball over, never take a risk that might mean the defense would have to defend a short field.

        I’ve seen it through the years. I recall not only the pitiful schemes and weird 1950s formations on top of terrible play calling, but he was also prone to constantly praise the defense and say nothing about the offense at all, which couldn’t have been good for morale/confidence. I still think he is a d coordinator and not a head coach. SC had the same erratic ups and downs we saw here last season, and they just basically quit against Clemson and just took the beating.

  6. Hmmm. The players havent worked this hard in the past and they’re now doing it the right way? I swear I’ve heard something like that before….and before. That said, I am quite optimistic and will enthusiastically accept Coach Grantham’s assessment.

  7. Robbie–Grantham appears to be as inarticulate as McElwain and as fatuous, banal and platitudinous. For instance, “It’s really about getting your best players on the field at the same time.” I’ve never played football, but I know how to do that–you call out the names of the best players on offense and defense before the game and tell them they are starting, and then after the game has started and, say, Kevonius is not playing well and you want to replace him with Kevarious, you turn to Kevarious and say, “Looka here, Kevarious, go in for Kevonius.”

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