Four years ago, Georgia coach Mark Richt dismissed three defensive assistants days after a win against Georgia Tech ended a disappointing regular season.
No such moves are coming this time, Richt said Sunday when asked if he planned for defensive coordinator Todd Grantham to return for a fifth season.
“Everybody should be back,” Richt said. “I mean, everybody’s got to do what they’ve got to do as far as if they have opportunities and all that kind of thing. We’ve got some things we’ve certainly got to get better at, but the continuity is a good thing for Georgia.”
Georgia finished the regular season 8-4 and No. 25 in The Associated Press poll after starting the season ranked fifth nationally.
Grantham, among the highest paid assistants in college football at $850,000 per season, has one more year left on his contract. The former 11-year NFL assistant interviewed last winter for a coordinator position with the New Orleans Saints.
The Bulldogs endured a slew of injuries to top playmakers on offense, but still rank in the top 20 in both total and scoring offense.
Under Grantham, Georgia is giving up 381.3 yards per game, the most since 1999, and 47th nationally. The Bulldogs are allowing 29.4 points per game, which ranks 80th nationally and would be the highest in program history.
Georgia’s defense was in transition this year after losing seven players that were taken in the NFL Draft.
“First of all, we had a young bunch, a lot of inexperience on that side of the ball,” Richt said. “The experience that everybody went through is positive. Everybody’s got to improve, everybody’s got to improve all the way around. There’s a lot of areas that we all need to improve on. We’ve got the right group of guys and we’ve got the right staff. We’ve got to make sure that we take care of business as far as improving, maturing and keeping that continuity.”
Grantham was asked after the Bulldogs’ 41-34 double overtime win against Georgia Tech if he thought he would be back next season.
“I ain’t worried about any of that stuff,” he said. “I mean, hey, I look at the body of work I’ve done and I’m fine.”
He said he felt the same way about the rest of his defensive staff.
“Like I said, look at the body of work we’ve done and look where the program is now relative to four years ago,” he said. “So I think we’re on the arrow going up.”
Georgia will lose only one senior starter, defensive lineman Garrison Smith, from a defense that ranked 68th against the pass and 43rd in stopping the run.
After his defense held Georgia Tech to seven second-half points and batted down a fourth-down pass to end the game in overtime, Grantham said: “We’ve got a lot of young players on our team that will grow from it and they’ll get confidence from it and we’re going to develop them and move forward and win a bunch of games.”
Richt said he’ll hold a staff meeting today that will mainly focus on recruiting moreso than on evaluating the season.
“I think I’m constantly evaluating what I do as a head coach, what we do as a staff and what our players are doing as well,” Richt said. “I think we’re constantly evaluating, trying to make changes or tweaks to do whatever we think is important to get done.”
Georgia will now await its bowl destination after Missouri and Auburn play for the SEC title on Saturday.
“We would very much like to have Georgia,” Gator Bowl president and CEO Rick Catlett said Sunday. “We’d very much like to put them against Iowa or Michigan and I think that’s kind of where we’re at.”
The Chick-Fil-A Bowl in Atlanta picks its SEC team before the Gator Bowl in the SEC pecking order. Texas A&M and Heisman winning quarterback Johnny Manziel could be that choice, which would leave Vanderbilt and Ole Miss among other teams available for the Jan. 1 game in Jacksonville.
Nebraska is another possible Big Ten team, but Catlett would not want a rematch of last year’s Capital One Bowl with Georgia. The Gator has the fourth Big Ten pick after the BCS selections this year following the Capital One, Outback and Buffalo Wild Wings bowls.