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Mark Bradley

Where will UGA turn after Todd Grantham?

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Todd Grantham

“Yeah, baby! One million per season! I’m the man!” (AP photo/David Tulis)

Esteemed colleague Chip Towers is reporting that Todd Grantham is leaving Georgia to become defensive coordinator at Louisville under Bobby Petrino, of whom you’ve heard. This constitutes a major upheaval for the Bulldogs, who must find a new coordinator not a month before Signing Day.

There was a time during the 2013 season when it appeared Grantham, who presided over an underwhelming Georgia D for the second consecutive year, might be urged to pursue some of those opportunities he had publicly courted while in Athens. And this change – from the SEC East to the ACC Atlantic, in which Louisville will begin play in 2014 – would seem something of a downward move.

But Louisville is famous for spending big – not that Georgia already hadn’t, sinking $850,000 annually into Grantham – and Mark Richt had said after the season that he wanted all his assistant coaches to return. (Secondary coach Scott Lakatos resigned on Thursday, citing “personal reasons.”)

(Sure enough, Joe Schad of ESPN reports that Louisville will pay Grantham $1 million per year over five seasons.)

Rank It: Pick defensive coordinator candidates

Grantham’s tenure at Georgia can serve as a case study in the fickle fortunes of collegiate coaching. He was hailed as an upgrade over Willie Martinez when he was hired, and in his second season the Bulldogs played such terrific defense – they held No. 1 LSU to no first downs in the first half of the SEC championship game – that Grantham was elevated to Rock Star status among UGA fans.

But the 2012 defense, despite the presence of a half-dozen talents of NFL caliber, didn’t perform to expectations, and the 2013 unit wasn’t very good, either. Thus did the Rock Star’s popularity plummet as quickly as Vanilla Ice’s.

It will be intriguing to see where Richt turns. Before settling on Grantham, he tried to hire John Chavis, now entrenched at LSU, and Bud Foster, who might only be a year away from succeeding Frank Beamer as head coach at Virginia Tech. The hottest names among defensive coordinators are Kirby Smart, the former Bulldog working at Alabama, and Pat Narduzzi, who has had great success at Michigan State, but both figure to be looking to take head-coaching jobs, not to make lateral moves.

One name to note: Manny Diaz was considered a long-shot candidate for the UGA opening, but he was then at Middle Tennessee State. He has since moved to Mississippi State, where he did fine work, and then to Texas, where he was by Mack Brown two games into the 2013 season after an egregious loss to BYU. Richt and Diaz worked together at Florida State in the late ’90s.

And Brian VanGorder, who was named Georgia’s DC after Richt left FSU to take the Georgia job, is off the market. He just accepted the position as Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator. And Will Muschamp, another former Bulldogs, has not yet gotten himself fired as Florida’s coach.

It’s possible Richt could choose, especially at this late date, to stay in-house and bump up linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti. But let’s face it: In a world where the famous failure Lane Kiffin can land at Alabama as offensive coordinator, what isn’t possible?

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