Grantham prepares to face Saban, his mentor

November 25, 2012 

ATHENS -- Todd Grantham credits much of his career, if not all of it, to the man he will need to beat this week: Nick Saban.

Back in the late 1990s, Saban hired Grantham to be an assistant at Michigan State. The two worked together for three years, and Saban has said often that Grantham was one of the best assistants he has had.

They faced each other back in 2005, when Grantham was Cleveland’s defensive coordinator in the NFL and Saban was Miami’s head coach. Cleveland won 22-0. They meet again Saturday, in the same roles for Georgia and Alabama, with an SEC championship and a spot in the BCS title game at stake.

“He’s one of the reasons that my career has been successful as it’s been,” Grantham said after Saturday’s win over Georgia Tech. “A lot of the things that I believe in philosophically come from him. A lot of the things we do defensively come from him. Defensively we’re very similar in what we do.”

Grantham called Saban a friend and said the two have spoken “periodically” the past few years ... but not since this season began.

“He’s really good at what he does, there’s a system in place. They’ve got good players, they’ve got good scheme, they’ve got good coaches,” Grantham said. “But we’re gonna be ready, too.”

There are plenty of other connections between Alabama and Georgia: Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo (and many Georgia staffers) know Alabama defensive coordinator well. Smart played at Georgia and was a Bulldogs assistant in the mid-2000s.

Georgia star linebacker Jarvis Jones got an offer from Alabama out of high school and when he was leaving USC. But he can’t recall visiting.

Georgia receiver Malcolm Mitchell said his final two were Georgia and Alabama. Mitchell knows Xzavier Dickson, an Alabama sophomore linebacker, very well.

“It’ll be fun, just to see some of those guys,” Mitchell said.

‘Little people cut’

Grantham appeared to take a shot at Georgia Tech’s offense and its cut-blocking scheme.

It came after Grantham said Florida was “a lot more physical” than Georgia Tech.

“So I wouldn’t say it’s a physical offense. Little people can’t block big people. And that’s why little people cut,” Grantham said. “That’s why you do what you do, is to get an advantage, little people are going to try to cut you. ... I think what they do is good, but we’ve played in more physical games.”

Georgia Tech is known for its use of cut blocking, which is essentially blocking below the waist and is not illegal. Many teams cut block, including Georgia, but triple-option teams, including Georgia Southern, tend to use it on almost every play because of the use of outside runs.

Ogletree’s big day

Defensively, the star for Georgia was Alec Ogletree, playing perhaps his final home game, finishing with 15 tackles. That’s the most by a Georgia player this season, and Ogletree now leads the team in tackles this season, despite missing the first four games.

“He’s kind of taylor made for this kind of defense,” head coach Mark Richt said. “He can run sideline to sideline. You’ve gotta have someone who can do that, to make those kinds of hits.”

Ogletree also drew some cheers from the crowd with some hard tackles, where he basically pile-drived the ballcarrier to the ground.

“It just happened,” Ogletree said, laughing. “Coach tells us to get to the ball and wrap up, and I was just probably spinning, and ended up picking them up and slamming.”

Rome arrives

Jay Rome ended up scoring in basketball before he did in football as a Georgia athlete, even though he signed as a football player. But he finally saw the end zone for the first time Saturday.

The tight end scored his first career touchdown in the third quarter, getting wide open down the middle and hauling in a 24-yard pass from Aaron Murray.

Rome redshirted in 2011 because of tight end depth, and got his athletic fix by walking on to the Georgia men’s basketball team. This year he has played but backed up starter Arthur Lynch.

“I’ve been waiting awhile for it, so I’m happy to have finally gotten it,” Rome said. “Coach has been telling me to just keep grinding and eventually (a touchdown) will come. Let’s hope the first one was the hardest.”

Extra points

Georgia backup nose tackle Mike Thornton suffered a leg injury late in the game. No definitive word on his injury or status was expected until Sunday. ... Quarterback Aaron Murray became the first SEC player to have 3,000 passing yards in three straight seasons. Murray wasn’t available to the media after the game, but a team spokesman said he wasn’t injured. ... Junior right guard Chris Burnette returned to the starting lineup after missing two games with a shoulder injury.

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