Football teams take on the identity and characteristics of the men that lead them. It doesn’t take long watching new Florida Gators defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s fiery sideline antics to get an idea of what the Gators defense will look like on the field.
“The identity that I would want is for us to play fast, physical and aggressive,” Grantham said. “It really gets down to those three words. If we give great effort and we play to our identity our chances to be successful on that particular down will be pretty good.”
Grantham has coached for nearly 30 years, including 11 at the NFL level. His scheme is a 3-4 defense but in all of his years coaching he’s learned you have to be flexible. Too often coaches get stuck in what they know, what they want to run and try to fit players into roles that fit the system but may not best utilize a players assets. It’s played out far too many times of late at Florida, specifically on offense. The last three years the Gators have played a nickel defense, mainly, with four down linemen, two linebacker and five defensive backs. Moving to an entirely different base is difficult, especially when you’ve only had one abbreviated recruiting cycle.
“You have the system but how do I fit the players I have within the system,” Grantham said. “In other words, what do they do? You’ve gotta tweak things relative to a person’s abilities, to what their assets are. Maybe the things they don’t do as well you gotta find a way to maybe mask those or hide those or do it another way.”
A perfect example would be a player like CeCe Jefferson. The former five star prospect from Baker County has spent the last three seasons playing with his hand on the ground. Florida even moved the edge rusher inside to defensive tackle — a failed experiment that lasted less than a season.
Most of Grantham’s short time at Florida has been spent recruiting, and NCAA rules dictate the amount of time he can spend with his players, but he has had graduate assistants cut up tape from previous seasons for him to watch and familiarize himself with returning defensive players.
“He’ll be multiple in our defense meaning he’ll play outside linebacker and defensive end. At the end of the day he’s and edge rusher is what he is,” said Grantham. “To me it’s just about developing him and continue to develop his habits and his traits and fundamental skill set to allow him to continue to be successful. He’s a guy that we’re obviously going to look to to be a leader for us.”
So you can call it a 3-4, or a 4-3 but it doesn’t really matter. Grantham will use the spring to really focus in on what he has in terms of roster, where players can be utilized to get the most of their abilities and then he’ll go from there. The most important thing isn’t necessarily where players are playing or even the scheme that Grantham will run. It’s about the effort they’re playing with and the principles this new coaching staff will instill in their team.
“The biggest thing is you always go back to what is your identity and how you play. And meaning you’ve always got to play with effort, you’ve always got to play with physical toughness. So we’re really into the compete mode, the competitive toughness right now,” he said. “Those are the things I think that you have to have as a core. As far as you know what exact front you’re playing, what exact coverage you’re playing, what exact blitz you’re running, I think all of that stuff is really independent each year relative to the players you have.”