Todd Grantham is the architect of a University of Louisville defense that is ranked #1 in the nation. Grantham has 25 years of coaching experience, including 11 seasons in the National Football League. He was the defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns from 2005-07, and also worked for the Colts, Texans and Cowboys. Before coming to UofL, Grantham spent four seasons as the defensive coordinator at the University of Georgia, including two seasons as the Bulldogs associate head coach. His brother, Tony, is the Cards linebackers coach and special teams coordinator.
KENT TAYLOR: How did you get these guys to buy in to your defense so fast?
TODD GRANTHAM: I think a lot of credit goes to the style of players that we have here. They enjoy playing the game. They respond to coaching and theyâ€™re able to take the things that you talk to them about in the classroom and go out and play. We always talk about what we want our identity to be. We want to play with effort and energy. We want to play fast, be physical and aggressive and those are the things that we want to show up on tape. To our guysâ€™ credit theyâ€™ve practiced that way and I think that your practice habits end up going into the games that you play.
TAYLOR: How much did you know about the roster before you took the job?
GRANTHAM: Not a lot. I knew that they had a good defense prior to this year, and I knew that a lot of those guys had left. I didnâ€™t really worry about that, I just looked forward to the fact that we were moving into the ACC. Itâ€™s a new era here at the University of Louisville and weâ€™ve got a chance to win the conference. Itâ€™s a great place to recruit to, itâ€™s a place that we can attract players, and moving forward that we can compete for an ACC championship.
TAYLOR: What is it about this university that makes it easy for you to recruit?
GRANTHAM: First of all, you look at our academics here, I think theyâ€™re outstanding. I think our academic people do a great job with our players to make sure that when they come here that theyâ€™re going to get their degree. Thatâ€™s the most important thing for a college football player, to make sure that he gets his degree. Louisville is a great city, there are a lot of things to do here from a playerâ€™s stand point, as well as on campus. If you come here, whether youâ€™re an offensive player or a defensive player, youâ€™re going to get developed and youâ€™re going to help us win games and move on to the next level, if you have that ability.
TAYLOR: When you signed on here, youâ€™re salary was highly publicized, what is that like?
GRANTHAM: I think as a coach, youâ€™re going to live in a glass house, so you kind of get used to that. The biggest thing is to be yourself and who you are. I enjoy what I do. I understand that I have a great responsibility at the University of Louisville to put a product on the field that people are going to be proud of.
TAYLOR: How much do you pay attention to the numbers during the season, having the #1 defense in the nation?
GRANTHAM: I think the credit of being the #1 defense in the country really goes back to our players and the way theyâ€™ve worked and prepared. It goes to our assistant coaches and the fact that we split up and we have our position meetings, and everybody is doing a good job of preparing their players to play to the best of their ability. I think those rankings and everything, theyâ€™re really more of a credit to the entire team. Moving forward the most important thing is getting wins.
TAYLOR: Have you had a defense where the safeties are the ones leading in interceptions?
GRANTHAM: A lot of that credit goes to the ability of our corners. When you have a guy like (Charles) Gaines, people sometimes may not want to throw at him, because his guy is not going to be open. Pass defense and interceptions are really a team thing. The players who have gotten the interceptions have really done a good job of reading the routes, and understanding the release of the routes, and where people are going to be. I think our front guys have done a good job of pressuring the quarterback to make the quarterback make a quick decision, and maybe throw it a little bit quicker than he wants to. Just like our run defense, you have to credit our secondary with their ability to tackle.
TAYLOR: What is your philosophy on defense?
GRANTHAM: My first philosophy is we want to be hard to score on. I think thatâ€™s the most important thing is points allowed, because if youâ€™re hard to score on, youâ€™re going to be in every game that you play. The next thing is, you obviously want to stop the run and make the quarterback beat you. Once you do, you want to find ways to affect the quarterback, with 4, 5, 6 man rush, multiple overages. We want to make the guy that gets the ball every snap try to beat us, and then we want to come after him. We want to play physical and aggressive. We want to make them react to us, we donâ€™t want to react to them.
TAYLOR: Gerod Holliman fits that mold: a hard hitter, who also leads the nation in interception. What does he bring to your defense?
GRANTHAM: I think Gerod Holliman is a guy that is really what you want in a player. If you look at the way he was in the spring, he responded to our spring meetings. We said, here are the things we want you to do to improve as a player. I think the guy busted his tail in the offseason, really worked, got better, digested the playbook, and is really a smart guy that took to coaching. He probably arrived in asÂ good a shape as anybody, and has really taken off from there. He has the intelligence to play the position. He prepares in the classroom and then he has the ability on the field to go out and perform.
TAYLOR: Lorenzo Mauldin was an established leader on this defense, how important is he to making this defense as productive as you think it can be?
GRANTHAM: Lorenzo is the heartbeat of the team. Heâ€™s a guy that as he has energy, the other guys do as well. He has a lot of respect from his peers because he is a playmaker and he can do a lot of things. Heâ€™s a huge part of what weâ€™re doing right now. Heâ€™s really embraced the move to linebacker. I think itâ€™s a natural position for him. I think heâ€™s going to be able to be pretty dynamic at it for years to come in what heâ€™s going to do after here. Heâ€™s been a guy that has made sure that our team really stays grounded in what theyâ€™re doing.
TAYLOR: How special is it to have your brother, Tony, on the staff with you?
GRANTHAM: Itâ€™s awesome. Itâ€™s really one of the reasons why I wanted to come here. Iâ€™m a big family guy. I think family is important. When youâ€™re in our profession, a lot of times you donâ€™t get to see each other very much. Now that weâ€™re on the same staff, obviously we see each other everyday, but more importantly, my family gets to see his family and I get to see his kids and I think thatâ€™s great growing up.
Photo Courtesy of MICHELLE HUTCHINS | Louisville Athletics