Todd Grantham is leaving Georgia, where his long-term future was in doubt, for the defensive coordinator position at Louisville, where he'll reportedly ink a five-year deal worth $1 million per season.
Grantham's hiring is noteworthy for two reasons. First, he's being given an incredible raise to $1 million per year and being given a five year contract. Both figures are fairly unheard of among assistant coaches in college football. News of it has been greeted with incredulity by some in college football, considering the on-field results were often less than expected given the talent Grantham had to work with. Second, Grantham came to Georgia from the NFL specifically to implement a 3-4 defense. It's what he does. So now, Louisville will be spending the winter and spring implementing a new defense and seeing just which pieces fit and what they need to try and get before national signing day to make it work.
Georgia fans don't sound overly bummed about the news:
If true, in my opinion Papa John and the boys are laughably overpaying for a guy who has delivered mediocre to sporadically above average results during his time in Athens. To put it in context, Kirby Smart's deal at Alabama is three years with a $3.85 million total payout. John Chavis's deal at LSU pays him $911,000 per year. Is there anyone who has the sense that Grantham is outperforming those guys?
You may recall that at one time it was thought that Grantham would be the fiery yin to Mark Richt's stoic yang. Instead he's been more the guy who yells on the sideline as the defensive front gets pushed around or the secondary looks on helplessly during another third and long conversion.
So now Mark Richt has an important decision to make at a program that will be able to earn the attention of some strong candidates. Who might be next?
The most coveted choice for Georgia fans is Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart. Smart's name is already being kicked around, and while he is in a great position at Alabama (not to mention well-paid), it's too early to rule out the chance of him landing in Athens. Smart is a UGA alum and spent two separate, albeit brief, coaching stints in Athens. He got his start in coaching as an administrative assistant with Georgia in 1999 and returned to coach running backs under Mark Richt in 2005. But he is also entrenched at Alabama at this point; he's been with the Tide since 2007, serving as the team's defensive coordinator since 2008.
The former Broyles Award-winner's Crimson Tide defenses have regularly been among the best in the country. In the six seasons Smart has been the DC, Alabama's defense has finished seventh, sixth, fifth, first, first and seventh nationally according to the F/+ ratings. The Tide also finished among the top 10 in yards allowed per play in five of those six seasons.
That gives Smart one of the best track records in the country. It wouldn't be easy -- and it would definitely be expensive -- to pry him away from Alabama, but Georgia made a run at him the last time it had a vacant DC spot, and the Bulldogs couldn't be blamed for choosing to give it another shot.
Georgia might be able to turn the table with an additional offer to Smart -- the title of head coach in waiting. We are getting into highly speculative territory, but there are rumblings that Mark Richt might choose to call it a career sooner than later. That could allow UGA to make an offer that Alabama might not be able to match, since Nick Saban appears likely to remain at Alabama for a while. But again, that's speculation, plus offensive coordinator Mike Bobo could conceivably be on his way to earning that spot anyway.
Houston defensive coordinator David Gibbs is another name to pop up early in the process. The Bulldogs have already reached out to Gibbs, according to Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports, but it remains to be seen how serious his potential candidacy might be. A report from Jake Rowe of UGASports.com indicates that Gibbs isn't likely to be a major player for the job.
Gibbs has experience coaching in the NFL ranks and the SEC; he's been a defensive coordinator at two other power-conference schools (Minnesota, Auburn), though he didn't last too long in either place. Houston finished 28th in defensive F/+ in 2013, Gibbs' first year as the Cougars' defensive coordinator, and 34th in yards allowed per play.
Clancy Pendergast, who just finished turning around USC's defense after Monte Kiffin's exit, could be another candidate. He has eight years of college experience, and his scheme would fit Georgia's 3-4 personnel.
Georgia might also decide to stay in-house, and if it does, linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti is a name to watch.
LBs coach Kirk Olivadotti "not going to L'ville under any circumstances." Also, "as I've said before, I would like to be a (DC) at some pt."— AJC UGA (@ajcuga) January 13, 2014
Olivadotti has more than a decade of experience coaching on the defensive side -- most of it in the NFL with Washington -- but hasn't served as a defensive coordinator before. He has been an assistant at UGA since 2011.