Georgia Bulldogs: Louisville Cardinals

Grantham ready for a new challenge

February, 13, 2014
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Todd Grantham had his reasons.

When Georgia’s defensive coordinator left for the same position at Louisville, many outside the program were perplexed by the move.

To Grantham, though, it was as simple as an opportunity – he said he believes Louisville can win a national title as an ACC member. He pointed to the athletic administration’s support of the program and called Tom Jurich “one of the top ADs in the country.” He pointed to the success Bobby Petrino already has had at Louisville, and said, “in my mind, they were going to do it again, only this time work to do it better.” The chance for Grantham to hire his brother, Tony, from Navy, was important to him and his family. All of those things, he said, coupled with Louisville’s move to the ACC in time for the start of the College Football Playoff, lured him away from the SEC.

[+] EnlargeTodd Grantham
Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY SportsTodd Grantham sees Louisville as a national championship contender now that they're in the ACC.
“In reality, if you can win the ACC, your chances of being in that tournament are really good,” Grantham said. “The combination of all those things intrigued me, and it was something I felt like I wanted to try to do and I look forward to it.”

He’s also looking forward to the challenge he’ll get it in Year 1.

Grantham inherits a defense that loses seven starters, including five in the front seven, both safeties and the leading pass rusher from the 2013 season. Louisville has to replace linebacker Preston Brown (who led the team in tackles), defensive end Marcus Smith (second in the nation in sacks), and the stellar safety duo of Hakeem Smith (first-team All-American Athletic Conference) and Calvin Pryor (second in tackles).

“That’s part of coaching,” Grantham said. “That’s why it’s important to recruit and develop players. We’ll work with the players we have. Everyone is kind of new right now. Everyone will get a chance. We’ll evaluate everyone and give them a chance to compete for a starting job.”

Grantham compared it to when he arrived at Georgia, and everyone wanted to know how he was going to replace Justin Houston, who had left early for the NFL.

“The big topic then was we had nobody to rush the passer,” Grantham said. “Low and behold, a guy named Jarvis Jones comes along and has 28 sacks in two years and we’re all good again.”

Jones, who was drafted last spring in the first round by the Pittsburgh Steelers and still talks to Grantham on a regular basis, said Grantham would invite the defensive players to his house for a barbecue, and they’d go out to eat as a defense so everyone knew that it wasn’t “just about football.” Jones said he wasn’t surprised by Grantham’s decision to leave Georgia.

“There’s always opportunities,” Jones said. “He probably felt like his opportunity was better, or they put him in a better situation. You never know what’s going on, man. I know he loved the University of Georgia, he loved the guys he had there, but you never know why. I’m sure the guys there are going to love him. The fans at Louisville are going to love him. He brings so much energy to the game. The stuff he did for us at Georgia was great. He’s got that demeanor about him, and it shows. We had the top defense and coach Grantham and his staff was the reason why.”

As he did at Georgia, Grantham plans to change Louisville from a 4-3 to a 3-4 base defense. With the exception of last season, when the Bulldogs were a young, injury-laden group and the scoring defense was ranked No. 79 in the country at 29 points per game, Georgia’s defense received high praise under Grantham during his four seasons as defensive coordinator.

[+] EnlargeJarvis Jones
Scott Cunningham/Getty ImagesFormer Georgia standout Jarvis Jones raves about playing for Todd Grantham.
Last year’s group still finished eighth in the country in tackles for loss and 28th in sacks. Grantham said he will continue to employ an attacking-style philosophy. He said that heading into last season, Georgia forced 62 turnovers in two years, second only to LSU (63), and that’s why they were able to get to the SEC title game twice.

He has the same plan in the ACC.

“We’re upgrading our schedule and going into a major conference, so we’re going to be playing some talented teams. Anytime the playing field becomes equal like that, your turnover ratio becomes a very critical stat. When you get the ball one more time than the other team, your chances of winning go up about 93 or 95 percent.”

More often than not, it worked.

In 2012, Georgia ended the season ranked 18th in the country in scoring defense, holding five opponents to 10 or fewer points, and finishing eighth nationally in pass defense. In his second season at Georgia, the defense finished fifth nationally in total defense, third in third-down defense, fifth in interceptions, and seventh in turnovers gained (32), which ranked first in the SEC.

“Coach Grantham had a tremendous impact on myself,” said former Georgia defensive tackle John Jenkins, who said he was the first player Grantham recruited. “He pushed me to limits I never thought I could reach. He’s a coach who understands players. He’s not a coach who has one way. He knows how to adjust and evolve his coaching style to fit everybody. He’s a go-getter type coach. He allows you to express yourself on and off the field.

“They’re going to love him,” Jenkins said. “They’re going to love him. I believe that with my heart.”

ESPN.com's preseason power rankings

August, 9, 2013
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College Football Power Rankings illustrationESPN IllustrationTBD BY EDITORIAL


Not surprisingly, the back-to-back BCS champions are again preseason favorites and top ESPN's power rankings. But a number of elite programs are ready for their chance to dethrone the king.

Top 15 breakdown
No. 1 Alabama
No. 2 Ohio State
No. 3 Oregon
No. 4 Stanford
No. 5 Texas A&M
No. 6 (tie) Georgia
No. (tie) South Carolina
No. 8 Louisville
No. 9 Clemson
No. 10 Florida
No. 11 Florida State
No. 12 LSU
No. 13 Notre Dame
No. 14 (tie) Michigan
No. 14 (tie) Texas

Georgia’s recruiting momentum has grown so strong now that it is even sweeping up prospects committed to other schools. After landing five recruits in a span of seven days, the Bulldogs have not slowed down at all and now have another commitment.

Linebacker Detric Dukes (Tucker, Ga./Tucker) has dropped his commitment to Louisville and is now committed to Georgia.

"I committed to Georgia," Dukes said. "It has always been a program I wanted to go to because it is close to home, they have great tradition and great academics, so it was hard to turn down the offer to play for them. It feels great to be a Dawg and I am done with visits."

Dukes visited Athens last Saturday with his family and picked up an offer that afternoon. He waited until after work on Wednesday to call the Louisville coaches, and then he called Bulldogs coach Mark Richt with the good news. Dukes knew shortly after he left Athens that he wanted to be a Bulldog.

"I knew where I wanted to go, but this is a long process so I needed to sit down with my family and discuss my decision," Dukes said. "When I told my mom and dad that was my choice for the next four years, they were behind me 100 percent."


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Last November, in the second round of the GHSA Class AAAAAA state football playoffs, defending Class AAAAAA champion Loganville (Ga.) Grayson took on Suwanee (Ga.) North Gwinnett. Coming into the game, all eyes were on defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, the No. 1 prospect in the country. Nkemdiche was coming off back-to-back seasons with 18 sacks and has been widely regarded as one of the most talented high school players to ever suit up in Georgia.

The player tasked with trying to contain the 6-foot-5, 270-pound five-star recruit was a sophomore named Mitch Hyatt. While most would get overwhelmed with the thought of blocking Nkemdiche, Hyatt used the opportunity to have a coming out party.

“Going into that game I felt like I had nothing to lose so I was not nervous,” Hyatt said. “I just tried to play my game.”

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NORCROSS, Ga. -- ESPN 150 defensive end Lorenzo Carter seems to never stop grinning, even on the football field. His 100-megawatt smile calls to mind another affable defensive end, Michael Strahan, complete with the trademark gap. Even a shoving match with a teammate resulted in Carter falling down laughing about it later.

During the Norcross spring game on Friday, Carter and offensive tackle Horatio Walker tangled as they went at each other in the trenches. Walker held Carter’s jersey and was rewarded with a shot to the helmet.

“Well it was a run, and I don’t think Horatio respects me on the run yet, but it is all good,” Carter said between guffaws. “He tried to bully me around, but I was not having that so I had to hit him back. I was having fun out there.”


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ESPN 150 DT moves Dawgs up 

May, 20, 2013
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ATHENS, Ga. – ESPN 150 defensive tackle Elisha Shaw (Tucker, Ga./Tucker) spent the weekend visiting the University of Georgia and a former teammate. When he left, the nation’s No. 4 defensive tackle said that the Bulldogs no longer trailed the Crimson Tide.


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ATHENS, Ga. -- Offensive tackle Dyshon Sims (Valdosta, Ga./Lowndes) awoke from a post-practice nap to find out that a longtime dreams of his had come true.

“I was actually sleeping around 9:30 when I got an alert on my phone from my Facebook account that I had gotten a message,” Sims said. “It was from the offensive line coach, Coach [Will] Friend. So I called him and he said they were offering me a full scholarship to come play at the University of Georgia.”

The 6-foot-4, 278-pound junior was taken aback.

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Q&A: ESPN 150 DT Shaw on new offers 

April, 24, 2013
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Elisha Shaw (Tucker, Ga./Tucker) already holds offers from Alabama, Florida State, Georgia, Ohio State and a handful of other big-time programs, so he wasn’t surprised to get a new offer on Monday.

He was surprised, however, that it came from Texas. The ESPN 150 defensive tackle met with Texas offensive line coach Stacy Searels on Monday and could look into checking out what the Longhorns have to offer this summer.


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BUFORD, Ga. -- ESPN Watch List defensive end Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Ga./Norcross) credits his blindingly pink socks and highlighter yellow shoelaces with helping him win the defensive lineman MVP award at the Atlanta NFTC on Saturday.

The award came with a brilliant gold dog tag that complemented his outfit. But what really caught Carter’s eye, and fashion sense, was the big gold box that he was handed that contained his invitation to The Opening.


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BUFORD, Ga. -- ESPN Watch List defensive tackle Elisha Shaw (Tucker, Ga./Tucker) attended the Atlanta NFTC on Saturday but could not compete due to leg injury. Instead, he watched the defensive lineman compete against the offensive linemen and yelled out instructions and criticisms to the delight -- and sometimes embarrassment -- of the other attendees.

Shaw might have been sidelined for the camp, but his recruitment is progressing full-speed. The 6-foot-6, 300-pound junior has double-digit offers, with Alabama and Georgia tied atop his list. Recently a new name has made a strong push.


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Editor's note: Finding the Future is a RecruitingNation feature that will appear throughout camps and combine season, ranking prospects strictly on their on-field performance at the particular event. It does not reflect where each will land when the class is ranked by ESPN.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- There might have been as many BCS conference-caliber recruits in the 2015 and 2016 classes present at the NFTC Sunday than there were in the 2014 class. It looks like the next couple of classes in the Carolinas will be stocked with top-tier talent, and a few of them stood out on Sunday in the rain.

1. 2015 DT Albert Huggins

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ATHENS, Ga. -- For most high school players, the end of practice means they get a break from the incessant nagging and ceaseless instruction of their coaches. They go home, eat dinner, study and enjoy the respite until the whistles start blowing next time. For ESPN Watch List safety Quincy Wilson (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./University School), that is not the case.

Wilson’s father is the defensive coordinator and the defensive backs coach at the University School, so Wilson jokes that he gets no respite.

“Oh no, there’s no break, there’s no break,” Wilson said. “Monday through Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Yeah, I get it at practice, before practice, after practice, in the car, at the dinner table ...”

The talented junior laughed about the nonstop instruction but he also credited his father with making him the player he is today -- one of the most coveted safeties in Florida.


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Coveted OLB names a top five 

March, 14, 2013
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Outside linebacker Jacob Pugh (Tallahassee, Fla./Godby) isn’t exactly sure of how many offers he has. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound junior has not counted them. Once he had received over 30 offers to the top programs in the nation, there really seemed no point in doing so. Pugh is more concerned about the five that he has on top.


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Georgia quick to offer Watch List RB 

February, 16, 2013
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Many high school prospects are evaluated for months or even years before a college program extends a scholarship offer. Highlights from sophomore seasons are compared to those of junior seasons to see progression and potential. Players who make a name for themselves as juniors are visited as seniors to gauge their possible impact at the next level. And then there are prospects like Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom) for whom the entire process takes three or maybe four days.


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ESPN 300 OL, UGA legacy makes call 

February, 6, 2013
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia added another ESPN 300 offensive lineman to its class this morning when four-star DeVondre Seymour (Suwanee, Ga./North Gwinnett) elected to sign with the Bulldogs, DawgNation's Kipp Adams has confirmed.

Seymour, the No. 259 overall prospect and No. 14 offensive tackle, is the adopted son of former Georgia Bulldogs All-American Richard Seymour. He initially considered waiting to sign until he sorts out academic concerns, but instead signed with the Bulldogs on Wednesday and could attend a prep school.

The 6-foot-5, 295-pound prospect chose the Bulldogs over three other finalists: Alabama, Auburn and Louisville. Seymour took a visit to UGA on Jan. 11, but academics forced him to focus on the classroom this past month and limited his chances to take other visits.

North Gwinnett coach Bob Sphire explained Seymour's situation last week to DawgNation's Radi Nabulsi: “Well, I don’t see him signing on signing day because he still has some more work to do academically. ... It may end up being prep school, it may end up that junior college is the option. He still has time to get things taken care of, too, so the best thing he can do is just keep his nose to the grindstone and work on those things.”

What is the impact of Seymour's decision?

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In a conversation with ESPN's Antonietta Collins, national recruiting reporter Gerry Hamilton breaks down the recruiting momentum building at Auburn and offers predictions for where the top 10 recruits will commit.Tags: Trenton Thompson, Kerryon Johnson, Jeffery Holland, Martez Ivey, Torrance Gibson, Cece Jefferson, ESPN 300, RecruitingNation, high school football recruiting, Gerry Hamilton
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