When the NFL calls, it’s customary to pick up the phone. That’s exactly what Florida’s defensive coordinator, Todd Grantham, did — at least twice, in fact — following UF’s 41-15 win over Michigan in the Peach Bowl.
Having spent a decade coaching in the NFL, including a three-year stint as the Cleveland Browns’ defensive coordinator from 2005-07, Grantham wasn’t ruling out the possibility of jumping back to the professional level.
After several reports named Florida’s defensive coordinator a candidate for various coaching gigs around the league, the idea Grantham would leave Gainesville after a lone season drove several Gators to campaign on social media for their coordinator to sign on for at least one more season with the Gators
So, when Grantham flew to Ohio for a second interview with the Cincinnati Bengals, many NFL analysts and pundits expected the defensive coordinator to depart Florida after just one season.
On Tuesday, Gators head coach Dan Mullen, who brought the defensive coordinator with him from Mississippi State to Florida, admitted the thought of losing Grantham — or any coach, for that matter — was concerning.
“You’re always concerned when you have good coaches. I think Todd’s one of the best defensive coaches in America. A lot of people want him,” Mullen said. “I think a lot of our coaches, people are coming after because, one, we have a good coaching staff. Two, we run a good program and I think a lot of people are interested in how we run the program, or to get somebody from a program that has been as successful as our has. There’s always that concern.”
However, according to several of UF’s defensive linemen, the thought of Grantham leaving the program didn’t make much sense, and therefore didn’t seem likely.
“I was pretty sure he was going to come back,” said defensive tackle Adam Shuler. “I mean, we had some really good defensive games. The country knows what he’s capable of, and what we’re capable of. It’s pretty big that he came back.
“It’s the NFL, but we have a chance to do something special here.”
Although Shuler did admit he wasn’t following Grantham’s interview process in the media as closely as some of his teammates, he said he already foresaw the 52-year-old defensive coordinator coaching the Gators for a second season.
“I wasn’t really watching it that close. I seen it here and there, but I thought that he was going to come back regardless,” Shuler said, “which he did.”
Junior defensive lineman Elijah Conliffe echoed the sentiments of his teammate.
“It’s very big because he brought in a great defense for us and helped us play to our strengths, so I’m really glad he came back,” Conliffe said. “(I was) not really (worried). I had a feeling (Grantham) loved the Gators. I see him on the sidelines after we won a game, taking his hat off, throwing it to the ground, getting excited, so I feel like he wasn’t going to go anywhere.”
Junior defensive end Zach Carter, expected to fill a large role this season, added to Shuler’s point that Florida’s expectations likely factored into Grantham’s decision to stay onboard. With Grantham back in the fold in 2019, the Gators must feel better about their high internal expectations.
“It’s pretty exciting, Coach Grantham deciding to come back. I think this defense has a lot to build on,” Carter said. “I really think Florida is inching towards winning a national championship, starting with the SEC. I think we’re pretty close, so I’m glad he came back to be a part of that.”
What: UF football practice open to the public
When: 9:45 a.m.–12 p.m. Saturday
Where: Sanders Practice Fields on UF campus. Bleachers will be set up on the east side along the Indoor Practice Facility. Fans can congregate on the east and south sides to watch practice.