Georgia Bulldogs Football: Todd Grantham Must Prove His Value in 2013

David Aldridge@davidmaldridgeFeatured ColumnistJuly 16, 2013

September 15, 2012; Athens, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs defensive coordinator Todd Grantham on the sidelines in the second half against the Florida Atlantic Owls at Sanford Stadium. Georgia won 56-20. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Todd Grantham was hired as Georgia’s defensive coordinator in 2011 after a lengthy coaching search that saw the Bulldogs get turned down by many of the top defensive assistants in college football.

Even though Grantham wasn’t the first choice, Georgia fans were excited about the new energy and approach he would bring to the defense. The defense had struggled under former defensive coordinator Willie Martinez, and it was time for a change.

Because of the increasing competitiveness of retaining top assistant coaches, Grantham signed a huge contract when he agreed to become Georgia’s defensive coordinator. His contract originally paid him an annual salary of $750,000, which made him the second highest-paid defensive coordinator in the SEC.

Other schools have since increased the salaries of other coordinators, but Grantham’s salary has also increased—he now makes $825,000 annually, making him the fourth highest-paid coordinator in the conference.

In his first season with the Bulldogs, it looked like the school had made a great investment.

Despite implementing a new system with players he hadn’t recruited, Grantham led a defensive unit that finished the 2011 season ranked fifth in the nation in total defense. It also finished the season with 32 turnovers, which was first in the SEC.

It appeared Grantham had created a new defensive identity for the Bulldogs, and fans were excited about seeing what would happen in 2012 with the defense returning nearly every starter. Georgia entered the season loaded with NFL talent, and it looked like it would be one of the most dominant defenses in the country.

Unfortunately, that never happened.

After finishing the 2011 season ranked fifth in the nation in total defense, the Bulldogs didn’t even finish the 2012 season in the top five in the SEC. It was a group that struggled with consistency, discipline and getting stops on third down.

The positive momentum that Grantham built following the 2011 wasn’t enough to carry the team last season. For whatever reason, it was a defense where the pieces ended up being greater than the sum of its parts.

Now, Georgia enters the 2013 season with question marks on the defensive side of the ball. It’s up to Grantham to answer those questions.

He has now had two years to integrate his coaching scheme and develop players who best fit his style of play. He still needs another year before the majority of his own recruits are the defensive starters, but the adjustment period should be over.

His salary is one of the highest of any coordinator in college football, and he needs to prove he’s worth it. He’s also received criticism for his interest in potential NFL openings, and fans want to see that he’s completely committed to succeeding at UGA.

Georgia’s offense is expected to carry the team next season. The key for the defense is to come up with timely stops and keep the team in games. And if Grantham is worth the salary Georgia is paying him, that shouldn’t be a problem.