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Friday, January 22, 2010

Tweeting with Lakatos and Grantham

I asked you for questions for Scott Lakatos and Todd Grantham, and you delivered. (Well, sort of.)

Now, it's time for the answers...

From @allyugadawg: Has he in the last 2 days found a 350lb nose tackle and is he bringing Saban's mystifying blitz packages to UGA?

Don't count on any major changes in who Georgia is recruiting during this final two-week stretch, according to Grantham. But that's OK. He said his system works well even without the prototypical players for each slot.

“There’s two types of 3-4. There’s the traditional 3-4, which is New England style, big, massive nose guard," Grantham said. "When we were in Dallas, Jay Ratliff made the Pro Bowl, and he’s an undersized nose tackle. We’re going to be more of a one-gap team, so you can play with guys that are like that, and I think that’s critical. So as we move forward, we’ll have a standard for what we’re looking for down the road, but right now I think it’s important to take the players you have and find ways to fit them into your system.”

@genexdawg writes: I would love to have a better feel for how Grantham feels about going into homes as a recruiter. Nerves??

First off, Grantham just arrived in Athens on Wednesday. Same with Lakatos. Both had to take tests before they could go on the road recruiting. Grantham said he "passed it with flying colors." And both hit the road for a trial run on Thursday. That's the extent of the recruiting so far, and neither had even met with the current players yet. (That's scheduled for 5:30 p.m. today.)

But despite the fact that Grantham has spent just one day in the past 11 years on the recruiting trail, he doesn't seem too nervous about it.

“Recruiting is all about relationships, really," Grantham said. "It’s about making people feel comfortable with you. But that’s really about coaching, too. When you’re coaching guys in pro ball and they’re making the kind of money they’re making, you’ve got to motivate them guys somehow, some way, too. So I think it’s all about being yourself, talking to guys, letting them know where you are, what you want to do and how they fit into what you want to do. I think it’s all about relationships, so I’m very comfortable with recruiting, and I’ve always enjoyed it.”

@DeeN0 writes: David do you know if Grantham and Lakatos are out on the recruiting trail? Any word on who the 3rd coach may be?

As I said, both spent Thursday on the road and have traded some emails with recruits so far, plus there's a key group coming in for official visits this weekend. But that's as much as they've been able to accomplish thus far.

As for the final coach, Grantham said it is likely to be a linebackers coach, and said he has no preference whether it's inside LBs or outside LBs.

Now, just when that coach might be hired is another story. From the sounds of what both Lakatos and Grantham had to say, it doesn't sound like anyone is in a hurry to get the final job filled.

“I think we’re very flexible on it," Grantham said. "It could be soon, it could be late, but as Mark and I talk over the course of the next few weeks, we’re going to get the right guy in here so we can have a solid staff from a teaching standpoint. I think teaching is very critical.”

Bottom line though is that it's unlikely to be a special teams coach, and Lakatos said he's fine with coaching virtually anywhere on special teams in addition to his defensive backs duty. He was a special teams coordinator while at Maine early in his career.

@shadcraft21 writes: ask lakatos if he'll be recruiting bigger cb's

Well, that's the plan. But…

"You'd like to get 6-4 or 6-5 corners, but they don't make too many of those. So as corners, you look for guys who are just football players. Most of those guys are the best athletes on their teams in high school. They're usually returners, and they're play-making types of guys. They're all really competitive and high-strung type of character guys. But they're hard-working guys. That's a tough job as a corner. Everybody knows when you make a mistake. So when you look at it, you're trying to recruit bigger guys because there's so much responsibility run game-wise that those guys need to show up, but you don't want to sacrifice athleticism for size. So you want to get a happy medium with competitive guys who are athletic enough that when they get matched up against a 6-4 or 6-5 wideout, he can hold his own."

@archmathadams writes: ask him if he's heard of "3rd and Willie"

OK, so I couldn't obviously phrase any questions this way, but I was lucky enough to have another reporter essentially ask Lakatos what he planned to do to reduce the frequency with which UGA's defense has allowed receivers to get behind the safeties in recent years.

“That can be the downfall of any defense," Lakatos said. "I just think guys have to understand that the first thing you’re defending is the goal line and being patient and making the offense execute their way down the field. We want to be aggressive. We want big plays. You want to be able to do those things. But at the same time, you have to be fundamentally sound enough to take away the deep threats first and work yourself back down. We just need to stress that. You can’t let people behind you because the offense moves the ball down the field too easy. So let’s start with defending the goal line, let’s eliminate big plays the best we can, and let’s whittle the offense down so they have to execute play in and play out, and sooner or later, somebody’s going to make a mistake.”

Our pal JFerg is still eluding the Twitter bandwagon but asked by email, Can you ask Grantham how long he expects it will take for us to be proficient at the 3-4. Will Spring and Summer do it? Or will it take more time, a few games? A full season?

There's no set-in-stone answer on that one, but the essentials will hopefully be complete sooner than later.

"I think it will be ongoing," Grantham said. "We'll adjust throughout the year to certain things we're doing, but it'll be ongoing. You're going to have your base package in spring ball. It won't be everything, but it'll be ongoing."

Of course, the first steps are all about evaluation, and that has already begun. Grantham said he had the GAs pull up film of 25 to 30 plays on each player that demonstrates what they are as players. From there, he plans to start ranking them, from top to bottom.

"We’re obviously going to start working with the guys here pretty soon on the offseason program," Grantham said. "We’ll be evaluating their work ethic and those types of things and then when spring practice starts, the actual classroom stuff, the physical football stuff. It’s a process that will be ongoing all the way up to next year. But you’ve got to start somewhere and we’re going to start with the evaluation of what they’ve done so far.”

@rbaile28 writes: whats the biggest factor that influenced you coming here and whats surprised you the most since being here?

Grantham said he had several other inquiries to come back to the college level during the past 10 years, but it never felt right. Georgia was different.

He said he first had contact with Mark Richt about the job during the week of the Cowboys' game against New Orleans (which was Dec. 19, by the way) and the two talked on and off from there.

Lakatos said Grantham called him in December to let him know that it was a possibility and Grantham asked him then whether he'd be interested in a job at Georgia, should things work out.

Obviously they did, and now both are in Athens.

As to his NFL time, Grantham said it was as much about preparing for this moment as anything.

"I wanted to (go to the NFL) to enhance my career in college," Grantham said. "I've always had aspirations of being a coordinator and a head coach one day, and I felt like what better on your resume than when you go into a home -- because every kid has aspirations to play pro football. Now, in saying that, as we move forward I think it's important that we get kids to come to Georgia that have that aspiration, but they also want to help Georgia compete for an SEC championship and help win a national title. So I think that's critical. But I felt like by having that on my resume and having that experience, when I walk into a home, my resume could speak for where I could help a kid go. That's really one of the reasons I went to pro football."

And as for coming to Georgia after turning down other offers, that was all about what was already in place.

"It wasn't like going to a program that was losing," Grantham said. "When you go to a program that's losing, you have to change the whole culture. I've done that before, and that's hard. You've got to change an identity. You've got to change the work ethic. I looked at this as a chance to come to a program that has won, that is hungry and that has been successful, and you can help bridge that back to the way it was. So that's what excited me about this job."

@martinkpp writes: Could you ask Grantham if he's ever been wasted on prison hootch?

This was a surprising answer.

"Well, this one time, me, Jerry Jones and Nate Newton were just hanging out in the parking lot at Cowboys Stadium," Grantham said. "Nate pops open the trunk of his car and, there in between a few rifles and a giant bag of what appeared to be oregano was a couple of jugs of the best prison hooch…"

OK, I made that up. But I will say this, if you told me I had to pick a Georgia coach to go have a beer with, I think Grantham may have already rocketed to the top of my list. He seems like a really likable, enthusiastic, energetic guy. And, to top it all off, he told us an good story about meeting Jessica Simpson. What more could you ask for in a new defensive coordinator?

OK, I'll have more from what turned out to be about an hour's worth of interviews in the next few days, both here and in the Telegraph. In the meantime, be sure you're following me on Twitter so that you can pose your own questions next time.

Also, you can catch more from Todd Grantham from his interview Friday with 790 the Zone and his Thursday interview with 680 the Fan.


Anonymous said...

Oh man, you mean you're really going to leave us hanging re: the Jess story?? Inquiring minds, and all that...

Andy said...

I ditto Anon. I want to hear the Jessica Simpson story.

Anonymous said...

does the vagueness on LB coach mean they are waiting to see if Chuck Amato is available after the cancer treatment?

BigMuddyDawg said...

Glad to read that you find CTG personable, David. I kind of got that feeling as well from hearing his two radio interviews. Does it appear as if he's also got a propensity for, uh, how to say...verbalizing his displeasure? With extreme prejudice? Oh, and one more thing: David. Come on, now. You know we're going to read whatever you write anyways. This painful Simpson tease is just not necessary!

GENXDAWG said...

Cool, David. Thanks for bringing us the info.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info Dave. It looks like CTG is saying all the right things. I think the thing that most of us dawg fans are intrigued about is this ranking of the def players. Is there anyway CTG would be willing to release his ranking out to the public, id love to hear what he has to say for about the current roster.

Andy said...

Anon @ 4:37- No way is CTG going to release any list like that for several reasons. Here are two. 1) It is unfair to the players. How would you like to be #21 on that list? 2) Coaches like to breed compeition, and a player who know they are low on the list is less likely to work hard and push the guys ahead of him. You want a lot of competition for the spots, because it makes everyone better. For example, Aaron Murray is probably going to be the starter next year, but I don't think it will be announced until August because they want the QBs to make each other better.

The closest thing you will get is a depth chart, which probably won't be public until early August I am guessing.

Anonymous said...

Ok, guys. Looks like we have the scoop on the Jessica Simpson story from CTG. It apparently happened during the end of the interview in an "off-the-record" moment.

Luckily, we don't have to ask David to violate the journo rules and go on the record with it - - the ajc's Mark Bradley helpfully already did that on his own. Here's the story from Bradley:

"One thing more: The guy who asked readers to submit questions [Bradley] posed one of his own, this on a matter of global importance. While with the Cowboys, did Grantham meet Jessica Simpson?
“I did,” he said. Then, kidding, he pointed to reporters’ tape recorders on the table. “Turn those off.” Then this: “I can tell this little story. I was sitting in my office one Tuesday watching film [here he mimicked a guy reared back in a chair with a remote in his hand], and Tony [Romo, Simpson's former flame] walked by. He said, ‘Hi, Todd.’ Then someone else said, ‘Hi, Todd.’
“I’m like this. [Mimicking craning his neck around a corner.] It was Jess. Nice girl. Nice girl.”

Pure gold! I see David's point about wanting to have a beer with the guy. He kind of livens up the joint a little. If he coaches (and recruits) half as well as he comes across in these interviews, we're in great shape.

Anonymous said...

Andy you bring up some good points. But imo if the list did come out I think it would be more of a way to enhance competion. If the first list came out and I was listed 21 it would make me think, damn maybe I should work a little harder. Not saying #21 wasn't workin hard before but maybe just a bit of motivation.

Well there will a depth chart once spring practice starts back up. Once that happens we will basically know who the top 22 players are. I'm more interested in who CTG thinks are the best players on the defense


Anonymous said...

"Both had to take tests before they could go on the road recruiting. Grantham said he "passed it with flying colors.""

What kind of tests did they have to take?