CHARLOTTE -- It was the briefest of conversations, but Damian Swann got a chance Saturday to talk again with Todd Grantham. The two ran into each other at a luncheon as part of Belk Bowl festivities.
“He was in line. And I was trying to get back to my food,” Swann said. “So it was kinda like, ‘Hey coach how you doing?’ Just a cordial greeting.”
Everyone has been trying to emphasize cordial feelings when it comes to the Grantham story. He spent four seasons as Georgia’s defensive coordinator before bolting for the same job at Louisville in January. But no bad blood remains, everyone claims.
Georgia head coach Mark Richt ran into Grantham at a coaches reception Friday night. The two and their wives said hello to each other, as well.
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“It’s business. It’s a business; we understand that,” Richt said. “People have to do what they think is best for them and their families, and I understand that.”
Grantham, speaking earlier this month, even complimented his replacement, Jeremy Pruitt, who Grantham said has “done a really good job. He’s a really good coach in what he’s trying to do. ... I’m sure they’re looking forward to playing the game also.”
It’s possible that once the game is over a few Georgia players will confess to some extra motivation because of the matchup. That’s only natural when facing a former coach, especially one who left after a season in which his unit struggled.
In the meantime the question is how much the Grantham factor will affect the Xs and Os. Grantham knows Georgia’s offensive personnel and its tendencies, and Georgia’s offensive coaches know what Grantham likes to do.
Mike Bobo’s departure to Colorado State takes away some of the familiarity, as Bobo and Grantham had coached against each other in practices and spring games for four years. But John Lilly, who will call plays in the bowl game, isn’t likely to change up too much, given how well the offense has played.
“We’re not gonna change what we do, because we end up chasing ghosts,” Georgia senior quarterback Hutson Mason said. “It is (weird), but being here for five years, you kind of realize it’s the reality of playing college football. It was strange the first time we went against Coach G (defensive line coach Rodney Garner), when he went to Auburn. He knew a little bit of our stuff. You end up after five years here, you get used to facing guys you’re pretty close with or have a good relationship with or have worked with.
“It’s a little different because he was here just a year ago, he’s got some guys that were recruited by him. So it’s a little different.”
Grantham and Pruitt each run essentially the same system, a 3-4 that goes heavy on the 4-2-5 when they’re playing a pass-heavy team. So a lot of the concepts will be familiar to the Bulldogs, which can help the offensive preparation.
But Richt isn’t counting on Grantham to be predictable.
“Everybody has certain things that they like and that they do. Todd’s no different. But there’s been a whole year that’s elapsed. He has time to plan it all out,” Richt said. “So we don’t know exactly what they do.”
Grantham said he didn’t think the familiarity will be as big a factor as the media would make it out to be. It will just come down to execution, he maintained.
His former players agreed.
“We’ve gotta execute our game plan better than they execute theirs,” Swann said. “And we’ve gotta try to find a way to get a win. And that’s the main thing.”
“Everybody knows what we’re gonna do (on offense),” Georgia linebacker Amarlo Herrera said. “They watch film. They’ve just gotta try to stop it.”