Transcript: Todd Grantham on Florida Gators Defense Through Two Games, New Positions & Texas A&M

Todd Grantham observes the defense during practice. Photo Credit: Alex Shepherd

Florida Gators Defensive Coordinator Todd Grantham met with local media on Tuesday. He spoke on the defenses identity through two games, new positions for certain players and what it will take to shut down Texas A&M.

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On if he feels he's been able to play to his identity this year as a DC "You know, I think that every game is kind of unique in a sense, you play the game relative to the way the score's going. The object of the game is to win the game. You know, whether you call a blitz, or whether you call maybe a coverage, at the end of the day if you execute the call, you should be able to get off the field, or you should be able to finish a drive off or something like that. So, I would say that you're always cognizant of the situation relative to what the score is, and the number one thing is to win the game. Then you're also looking at ways you can improve, and trying to put guys in position to do that. I think that's where we're at right now is working to make sure that we get guys to finish off whatever the task at hand is." On if he's being as aggressive and if something is holding him back - depth, experience, as a play-caller "Nah, we're just playing and working to finish the game or finish the series and get off the field. So, no there's nothing that's really holding us back, we just gotta execute the call and do a better job." On how much Kyree Campbell has been missed "I think anytime you take a guy that, you know, has played - really, he was the core of our program in a sense, when you look at when we first came in. At that time we were actually gonna redshirt him, but because of his passion, his energy, his toughness and kind of what he brought to that room, we felt like we needed to play him. I think anytime you can get that kind of attitude upfront, I think it can kind of bleed into the group, in general, which can be contagious to the entire defense. So, I think that that's something  that we've got to work to finish off, you know, plays, series, games and that's been a point of emphasis."

Last week you talked about playing the clock, is that kind of what happened on the 7 1/2 minute drive at the end of the game? “Absolutely. I mean, you obviously want to get off the field. If you look on third down in the second half I think we were eight of 10 on third down. The issue was they went for it on fourth downs, so that’s where I tell my guys, you gotta have a mindset kind of like we’re in the NBA season right now and it’s game 7, you’ve gotta finish people off. We’ve gotta develop that attitude to understand the situation at hand and we need to be able to finish. I thought we did a better job of finishing plays last week, so now we’ve gotta work on finishing drives and finishing the game the way we want to.” Marco at STAR “Marco’s played STAR for us the last two games. He’s been there full-time. We did that because the confidence we have in Jaydon, and Chester, and Kaiir outside to be able to go make plays and as a defensive player or a defensive coach, you’re always looking to say, ‘how can I get our best 11 guys on the field relative to the situation?’ That move allowed us to do that. We’ll always have that in the back of our mind as we move forward with the gameplan. The good thing is Marco is a guy that has the ability to do both, so that gives us some flexibility.”

Do you think South Carolina running 83 plays impacts perception of how you guys played? “Yeah, I mean, you know I think they had like 136, 140 (yards) at halftime, something like that. I felt like that, when you go back looking at it, I really didn’t really like the way we started the game from that standpoint. But really, from then on, we ended up playing better. I think they had like 140-some yards. We had it, I think it was 38-14, the guys did do a good job of kind of understanding what was happening to them in situations. I think we were 8 of 10 on third down in the second half, but the issue was, it’s fourth down and you’ve got to get off the field because, you know, like I said, it’s like a Game 7 mentality. If you go back and look, they averaged four yards a play. If we could go the rest of the year averaging four yards a play in a game, I’d be pretty happy.” What about the younger corners and specifically Jaydon Hill? “I mean, I’ll be honest with you, I thought he was going to end the game with an interception against South Carolina there at the very end. I was kind of hoping for that for him because he has worked really hard to become a good player for us. I thought those guys did a good job of one, taking their tackling from game one to game two and tackling better. I thought they did a better job of understanding and respecting the deep part of the field because in the last game, I think they had a 20-yard play and a 22-yard play. Out of 83 plays, if you only have two plays over 20 yards, that gives you a chance to hold somebody to a low number. Those guys have done a good job of taking coaching, making corrections and then preparing themselves to play.”

Teams are having a lot of success in the middle of the field. What do you attribute that to?  “You talking about the first game?” Ole Miss and South Carolina  “Yeah, well, in the first game we had, like I said two weeks ago, out of the eight explosive plays, seven were in the middle of the field. So, we’ve got to protect the middle of the field. In the last game, we had only two plays over 20 yards, so I thought we did a better job of protecting the middle of the field. You’re always going to get attacked in the middle of the field relevant to the quarterback in the sense it’s a much easier throw. In other words, it’s harder to throw the ball outside and deep. So, philosophically, you do always work to protect the middle of the field. You’ve got to understand your leverages. The biggest thing is just understanding your leverages and making sure you’ve got good eye control.” Only pick so far a tip to Dexter. What’s it going to take to get DBs in better position to cause some interceptions?  “I think as long as. .. interceptions, fumbles, things like that, can be streaky. I think the biggest thing is keep doing your job, keep doing what the call of the technique asks you to do. Prepare each week relative to the situation, understand the routes and formations. Alignments. It allows you to understand what’s getting ready to happen. You can make a break on a ball, go get a play.”

WHAT HAVE YOU SEEN FROM JIMBO FISHER'S OFFENSES, ESPECIALLY NOW COMPARED TO WHEN HE WAS AT FSU? "Well I think first of all it starts with the quarterback, I mean, because we played this quarterback two years ago when I was at Mississippi State. Just looking at the development of the quarterback and the way Jimbo has developed quarterbacks over the course of his career, you can see that they've really improved him from that standpoint. They're always going to have concepts to try to attack you in the middle of the field, they're always going to attack you underneath with some of the drive routes and things like that. And quite honestly they're going to try to find ways to run the ball and be physical that way. Those are really the biggest things that I see with Jimbo, is utilizing the personnel, meaning, you know, he does a good job of taking the players he has and specializing in. Meaning when he's got a guy that's an elite back he's going to have plays that will go to him, if he's got a receiver he's going to go to him, if he's got a tight end... So he does have the ability to specialize the talented players and get those guys the ball. You know, make plays that way. But really the development of the quarterback is the No. 1 thing that I see that he kind of does a good job with." AFTER FIRST DRIVE WHAT DID YOUR GUYS DO BETTER AND HOW DO YOU SUSTAIN FOR ENTIRE GAME? "Honestly we just executed and played with our intensity, played what we were supposed to play, did our job. I mean there's no magic dust from that standpoint. It wasn't like it was an adjustment or a call, we just played the plays, understood what was happening and did what you're supposed to do. It really wasn't anything magical.” You and Mullen talked about that killer instinct. Is that something you can teach or no?

“Everything’s teachable, meaning do you play hard? When a guy probably comes into a program, he’s probably not playing as hard as he should, you know what I mean? He may think he’s playing hard, but it’s not where it needs to be to compete at this level. I think everything you do is about education, about teaching, about development. So what you have to do is, you’ve got to take situations that come up and go through the experiences and kind of go through, like —look, it’s 38-14. We’re one stop away from being able to get some scout team guys in the game, some guys that are backups, and do that kind of thing. But if you don’t finish, all of a sudden you’ve got come around, and then you’re up to playing another 35 plays or something. So I think everything you do is a teachable moment, and I think that’s part of developing a team, where we’ve got a lot of young payers in our two-deep and we’ve just go to continue to develop those guys, educate those guys so we can be the kind of defense we want to be.”  

A&M has a good tight end. How do you scheme to stop that, with a linebacker? Maybe Marco?

“Yeah, when you look in the last game against Alabama, he had a really good game. Kinda came up to showcase his talents. I mean, what it does is, it gives them another playmaker on the field so now, you know, you’ve got three wides out there plus a tight end, in essence it’s four wides. This guy has the ability to block, so he can create issues that way. You’ve just got to understand that and understand the matchups and try to get the best matchups possible to be successful in that situation.” 

Amari Burney said yesterday he had to improve…also,  you talked about his improvement with leverage and reading faster. Still see that from him and feel like he can make that transition? 

"Yeah, absolutely. I think he can, he'll be a fine linebacker there. I think that part of being a really good player and working into being a great player is having that kind of attitude. Because whether you win or lose it's really about watching the tape and making a critical assessment of 'what I have to do to be a better player.' Because if we all take ownership in that and continue to work and become better players from watching the tape, then our team is better. And that's the ultimate goal is we want to develop players, and we want to make our team better. So the character of Burney doesn't surprise me, him being able to do that because he's a guy that is very critical of himself and wants to be a good player. So we're going to continue to coach him and teach him and he's going to get there.”  What does Zach Carter’s athleticism do for you inside vs outside and how is he developing with double teams and a different game on the interior?  “Yea, I mean, because he's been in our program, you know, for three years his strength has really picked up; his ability to hold the point and be stout. And that's really given us the flexibility to play him in there. He probably couldn’t have done that two years ago. So his, his development in the offseason has allowed him to have that option. The thing it does from a matchup standpoint is, you know, in the passing game or the one-on-ones, his ability to make a guard move his feet in space can create the matchup problems that way so you're always going to work to try to take advantage of that. And at the end of the day that, that’s, that's really where it comes down to is, is his ability to invest in the program from a strength and conditioning standpoint to make himself a bigger, stronger player and get the stoutness you need to play inside, physically, and, you know, continue to still have his athletic ability, has kind of allowed him to you know be Defensive Player of the Week last week and make plays and give us some—you know defense is about one-on-one matchups. And, you know, not— everybody's seen the one-on-one matchups outside but you know there's one-on-one matchups in the front too, and being able to put a guy like him with his athletic ability in one-on-one, it gives us a chance to win the down.” 

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