ATHENS -- Todd Grantham walked in for his customary media session Tuesday, took a seat, and smiled. The Georgia defensive coordinator then tried to pretend he wasnt the center of this weeks storyline.
The questions came, and Grantham answered them matter-of-factly.
No, he has not run into Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin since their postgame shouting match last year. Yes, Grantham thinks Franklin is a good coach. But no, Grantham has no apologies or regrets.
And no, he doesnt think this game should be about Grantham vs. Franklin.
No, it shouldnt be. Its us against them, its an SEC game, Grantham said.
Privately, it might be another matter. Several defensive players have said last years postgame with Vanderbilt will serve as motivation, including Sanders Commings, who said it is definitely going to be on our minds throughout this week, and definitely on Saturday in the game.
In any case, this makes two out of three weeks that an off-field story is serving as a motivation for players: Prior to the Missouri game, it was the old man football comment by a Missouri player that took on a life of its own.
Afterwards, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray and a teammate were photographed hoisting a sign that touted: Grown Man Football. There are T-shirts saying Grown Man Football being sold at Sanford Stadium and around Athens.
Yeah Ive seen that, Georgia receiver Tavarres King said, laughing. Itd be kind of cool to have one of those, actually.
The cliché goes that if a team needs outside motivation to win a game -- especially a conference game -- then somethings the matter.
But Georgia head coach Mark Richt, now in his 12th year in the job, admitted that he tries to rev up his players with a little something, usually the night before the game.
I do think that when I first started as a head coach I would have rather practiced five more minutes than give some kind of rousing speech, Richt said. I think that emotions do only last so long, then you have to settle down into a game where you have to rely on the habits youve created throughout the week of practice, your offseason, two-a-days and that type of thing. Emotion is important, and guys, when they play with their blood hot, they tend to play better. We try to find ways to motivate either by words or motivational tapes. Anything that we can grab that we think will get them revved up and ready to go, well try to use.
Having said all that, Richt has downplayed the importance of the Grantham-Franklin feud. So did Grantham.
Were all competitive people, and things happen, and you learn from it and you move on, he said. You know, make sure you keep the focus on the game, and get ready to play a game on Saturday.
That was echoed by several players on offense.
Different people handle it different, King said. Some people, the people who were directly involved, will be a little more amped about it. But I myself, its just another game to me to get better.
Sophomore defensive end Ray Drew, who had a front-row seat for the shouting match, put it this way: I know for some people its a little more personal than others. And then also, a lot of people didnt like the way things turned out last year but really dont have the full story, even a year after the fact. But I do believe that with what happened last year, there will be some added tension with this game.
Safety Shawn Williams, whose antics sparked Franklins anger last year, has not spoken to the media for several weeks. Teammate Christian Robinson granted that this game may be a little more personal for Shawn. But as for Robinson, he said hes not particularly affected by it and is friends with a few Vanderbilt players.
The old man football comment, however, did rankle Robinson, Drew and other Bulldogs.
Its a little different for us, because we had never played them before, said Robinson, a senior linebacker. And when you start talking and youve never played someone, you really have nowhere to base that at. That was the whole thing.
When the statement was made before the Missouri game about old man football, we just took it as almost a slap in the face, and used it as motivation to say, OK all this talk and all this stuff about us, lets go out there and prove them wrong, Drew said. It just gave us extra motivation. Things do like this, no matter how much you may not want them to, theyre always gonna be there in the back of your head, buzzing around. They say we play old man football, or they did this or did that. In the back of your mind, youre always gonna remember that and youre gonna wanna go out and play your hardest.
Sometimes, however, the best motivation comes during the game. Last Saturday, in the fourth quarter against Florida Atlantic, Grantham lit into junior linebacker T.J. Stripling, according to a teammate.
T.J. got so mad, the next play T.J. got a sack, linebacker Mike Gilliard said. So Coach Grantham got a chuckle, like: Shoot, I need to (tick) you off more often.