Plenty to like about UF defense, Grantham says

Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham coaches the defensive line during practice Saturday on the UF campus. [Brad McClenny/Staff photographer]

Fifteen practices seems like a lot of time to get work done in the spring. But it’s not in Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s world.

He has a different timetable for breaking it down.

“In reality you only have 30 hours on the field in spring,” he said Tuesday. “We’re in day three, so six of those hours are gone. So, we’ve got just 24 hours left on the field the remainder of spring to try and get the things we need in. And also evaluate guys and see where they can stack up as far as giving us reps.”

Six hours doesn’t seem like much time when it comes to analyzing and evaluating talent and trying to determine where a group might be headed. But it’s apparently been enough for Grantham to form a positive impression on his new defense.

“First of all, I like our energy on the field, I like our willingness to do things correctly and I like our willingness to develop the habitual traits to be a successful defense, to be a successful team,” he said. “I think we’ve got talent. It’s a matter of developing consistency needed to be the kind of team we want to be.

“We’re moving in the right direction. Obviously, day three, we’re not where we need to be. But I certainly like our attitude, I like our effort, I like our energy, I like we’re early to meetings, we’re early to practice. We’ve just go to keep working and grinding.”

Grantham knows from experience how this process works, how it can play out and why. He’s been coaching for the past 31 years and in his 12th year as a defensive coordinator.

He’s been a successful one at three schools (Georgia, Louisville and Mississippi State) and one NFL team (Cleveland).

Grantham was asked Tuesday about the talent he’s got to work with at UF and whether he has enough for this to be a potentially elite defense.

He said it goes way beyond just talent.

“Talent is important, but you have to have the habitual traits needed in your effort and your energy, and in your fundamentals,” he said. “That’s the key to playing good defense, to play as a unit, play as one. It’s putting in the preparation needed to do those things. Talent is only one part of it.

“There’s a lot of other things involved in being a top-10 defense. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a few of those teams. The biggest thing is playing as a unit and honestly developing the habitual traits to play every play the way it needs to be played with the standard we want.”

Grantham said the defense is currently in the consistency phase where the Gators are learning concepts and techniques while trying to string together positive plays without mistakes and breakdowns.

The players seem to be buying in, led by some of the veteran players, including senior end Cece Jefferson, junior linebacker David Reese, junior defensive end Jabari Zuniga and junior Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, who has made the move from safety to nickel.

Grantham also is tossing out some early praise for UF’s cornerbacks.

“As a whole, I like our effort, I like our energy,” he said. “I have been impressed with our corners and their play. Certainly we want to continue to develop those guys. I think they can bring something to the table.

“Chauncey is a leader, really works hard, conscientious. David Reese is a guy that’s shown up to be a player. Cece is a guy that’s embraced playing outside ’backer for us and what we’re trying to do with him. Zuniga is a guy that can play more than one spot.

“I’m encouraged about where we’re moving.”

But it’s still very early, only six hours in, and there is a lot of work to be done in a short period of time. And this is a defense that needs time — time to develop depth on the defensive line and at linebacker, time to determine who will be getting most of the reps in the fall and those who won’t.

“You might see one play and say, ‘Yeah, that’s pretty good.’ But the next two or three are not. It’s a matter of continuing to work,” Grantham said. “We’re in day three. I like our progress.

“There’s no magic dust to what we need to do. We just need to continue to work and compete and develop the habits you need to play with and the energy and effort we need to play with.”

UF Football

What: Practice open to fans

When: 11:45 a.m.-2:10 p.m. Saturday

Where: Sanders Practice Fields


    • @ Tampa – This article contains information pertaining to what Coach Grantham was talking about, and to whom he was referring, which was Gardner. Why should Robbie mention who was not referred to by Grantham?

      This was a good and encouraging article…

    • TampaGator–you’re right, of course. It would have been good to include that info. Robbie writes well at times, but at other times, not so much. You better watch out–criticizing Robbie (or Pat) will get your butt in a sling. Next thing you know, Ricky will be after you.

  1. Defense has to swarm and develope nastiness and really be a bit of a bully on their opponents. “One for all and all for one.” Georgia’s defense exhibited these traits last year under Kirby. Hand to hand warfare in the trenches. Take no prisoners. Down right mean. That said, gentlemen off the field. Go Gators!

  2. The way you do one thing is the way you do everything. These coaches understand that, and I love Grantham’s emphasis on HABIT. It’s the mental habit of being accountable, dedicated, and relentless that they are instilling in these guys.

    Team defense happens when guys trust that the other ten guys will be where they are supposed to be doing what they are supposed to do. Then, each player can focus fully on executing his assignment and not worrying about covering for someone who decides to take a play off or lackadaisically moves into position.

    Great to see players showing leadership, too, and I think CeCe is going to be bring back memories of Wilbur Mashall from that OLB position, but is all starts with habits instilled through constant repetition.