Familiar face: Dawgs set to meet their former DC

Brandon Sudge, Staff
GA Varsity

Associated Press

A familiar face will stand on the opposing sideline when Georgia takes on Mississippi State in its conference opener.

Todd Grantham, Georgia's defensive coordinator from 2010-2013, arrived in Starkville, Mississippi, this past offseason after a stint at Louisville. For the first time since leaving the program, Grantham will work on the Sanford Stadium turf.

The 51-year-old coordinator has his defenses ranked near the top nationally each season, including high ranks in Total Defense - 5th in 2011 and 32nd in 2012 - while at Georgia. While Kirby Smart wasn't alongside Grantham during his Athens tenure, he also has a history with him during previous collegiate and professional stops.

When with Alabama, Smart received help from Grantham when he coached with four different NFL teams. That relationship between the two SEC coaches gives Smart a feel for what Grantham offers.

"I've known Todd for a long time. I think he does a tremendous job," Smart said. "He's very smart, very knowledgeable, knows how to attack protections. He's a guy that's constantly working on getting better. He's got these guys believing and playing really hard, really physical. [He's] got good players, good guys in the secondary. He has those guys believing in each other."

After Grantham departed, Georgia hired Jeremy Pruitt. Pruitt spent two seasons with Georgia before returning to Alabama. In turn, when Smart took the job at Georgia in Dec. 2015, he brought along Mel Tucker from Tuscaloosa to run his defensive unit.

Each of the four coaches has crossed paths in their careers - with some relation to Alabama at some time - and possess some of the same strategies. It may be of benefit to Georgia as it could bring some familiarity.

"They all come from the same circle with different wrinkles," tight end Jeb Blazevich said. "I think the defense is somewhat similar to what we run and things we've seen before."

Mississippi State (3-0) claimed its first conference win over LSU on Sept. 16 with a 37-7 rout. The Bulldogs' win over the 12th-ranked team at the time surged them into the most-recent Associated Press poll at 17th.

A lot of the talk surrounding Mississippi State is in regards to its quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, and rightfully so. The sophomore has recorded 12 total touchdowns - seven passing, five rushing - in the team's first three games. But it may be Grantham's unit that has caught even more attention.

Mississippi State's scoring defense is currently 6th-best nationally as it has allowed an average of only 9.3 points per game.

"They're playing as good [defensively] as anyone in the conference, playing really hard and physical" Smart said.

Georgia could give true freshman quarterback Jake Fromm the start in its conference opener, yet Jacob Eason's status is undetermined with a sprained left knee.

Fromm will be called upon in crucial moments to connect with his playmakers - one of which is Terry Godwin who collected 98 yards and two touchdowns against Samford.

Godwin, who was surprised to see the margin-of-victory for Mississippi State, knows it could be a formidable task. Against LSU, Mississippi State was led in tackles (9) by safety Mark McLaurin.

"I know they have a lot of big corners and big safeties," Godwin said. "They like to fly around and get to the ball. That's something we have to work on as a receiver unit."

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