Todd Grantham has left his post as defensive coordinator at the University of Georgia, according to several sources, including Seth Emerson of the Macon Telegraph. It has been speculated that he is headed to Louisville to coach under Bobby Petrino, per Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald.
While some Bulldogs fans may be happy to see Grantham go, the timing of the transition could not be worse.
With national signing day just a few weeks away, the Bulldogs are now in quite a bind. Six current commitments play on the defensive side of the ball and will need reassurance that the unit is heading in the right direction. Furthermore, if the Dawgs hope to land talented uncommitted prospects like Lorenzo Carter, a big-name coordinator will be a prerequisite.
We are appreciative of all the contributions Todd has made to our program and wish him nothing but the best. But at the same time the opportunity to work at Georgia is extremely attractive and there already is, and will be, interest from some very, very outstanding coaches. We have a lot of defensive players coming back, as well as some outstanding defensive recruits, and there's going to be plenty of interest in coaching them. I'm excited about the prospects of a great defensive coordinator being on board as quickly as possible
Here are five possible replacements for Todd Grantham who could shore up recruiting and develop Georgia's defense into one of the best in the SEC.
Kirby Smart, currently the defensive coordinator at Alabama, has been the trendy name for all major openings for the past few years. Accordingly, landing Smart would be an absolute coup for Georgia on every level.
The good news for Bulldogs fans is Smart has deep Georgia ties, having played defensive back for the Dawgs from 1995 to 1998, served as an administrative assistant in 1999 and later coached the running backs in 2005.
However, he is well-entrenched at the University of Alabama, where he has been defensive coordinator since 2008. Not only has Smart won three BCS National Championships with the Crimson Tide, but he's also won numerous individual coaching awards during his tenure. In 2009, he won the Frank Broyles Award (as the nation's best assistant coach), and in 2012, he was AFCA FBS Assistant Coach of the Year.
Unfortunately for Georgia, Smart's next move will likely be to fill a head coaching vacancy. And, although Todd Grantham was well-payed at Georgia (earning $850,000), Smart is the nation's highest-paid defensive coordinator, earning $1.28 million per year.
It's difficult to imagine a scenario in which Georgia would offer a financial package that would merit another lateral move for Kirby Smart.
Manny Diaz was last seen being removed from his duties as Texas' defensive coordinator after allowing 550 rushing yards to BYU in September. Such an inglorious departure may leave a bad taste in one's mouth, but Diaz is a fantastic, young defensive coach.
Diaz had stints at Florida State, North Carolina State, Middle Tennessee and Mississippi State before arriving at Texas, and Dawgs fans know him better than they might think. In 2010, his lone season as defensive coordinator at Mississippi State, Diaz guided MSU to a 24-12 victory as Georgia found the end zone just once.
Diaz has experience coaching defensive backs as well, so if he were able to coach the secondary and coordinate the defense, Georgia might finally have room to hire a true special teams coordinator.
As far as recruiting is concerned, Ed Orgeron is the best available replacement for Grantham. Orgeron has coached all over the country (Miami, Syracuse, Ole Miss, Tennessee) but was last seen as the interim head coach at Southern Cal.
Orgeron brings a big name with a big personality. He has coached at the NFL level (which recruits love) and boasts head coaching experience. He also has rich ties to the South and the region's recruiting pipeline.
New USC head coach Steve Sarkisian has alluded to wanting Orgeron back on his staff, but currently he is available and likely affordable.
One upon a time (not too long ago), Tyrone Nix was one of the hottest young defensive coordinators in the country. After becoming defensive coordinator at Southern Mississippi at the age of 29, Nix led the Eagles to three consecutive finishes in the top 15 in scoring defense.
He later spent three seasons at South Carolina and three at Ole Miss before being dismissed with the entirety of the Houston Nutt staff in 2011. Now, he's the defensive coordinator at Middle Tennessee State.
Despite an obvious lack of elite talent at Middle Tennessee State, Nix has turned the Blue Raiders defense around. In 2011 (the year before he arrived), MTSU allowed 36.8 points per game. This year, the unit allowed just 26.
Nix may be an under-the-radar pick to replace Grantham, but he has a proven track record of improving defenses.
Current Georgia defensive line coach Chris Wilson
This may not be the most exciting move, but promoting defensive line coach Chris Wilson to defensive coordinator would be a swift, easy transition.
Wilson vastly improved the defensive line in his first year at Georgia, and prior to that period, he served as defensive coordinator at Mississippi State in 2011. He has the respect of players at Georgia and the experience to make the leap.
Wilson knows the current system, current personnel and current recruiting targets. Furthermore, he provides some semblance of the "continuity" that Mark Richt said Georgia wanted within the coaching staff, per Weiszer.
Obviously, Mark Richt's first call will be to Kirby Smart. That being said, that conversation may be over as soon as it starts unless Georgia is ready to pay some serious cash and offer Smart a "head coach in waiting" title.
Ed Orgeron makes a lot of sense here. He has the name and personality to not only keep current commitments, but also bring in some new ones over the next few weeks. Furthermore, he's got the coaching chops and personality to revitalize this uninspired Georgia defense. It certainly helps that he's not currently attached to another program.
If not Orgeron, Manny Diaz presents a compelling two-for-one scenario in which two coaching vacancies could be filled by one man and a special teams coordinator could be brought in. Sure, his tenure at Texas came to an abrupt end, but he's still a young coach with a chip on his shoulder. That could translate well on the field for the Bulldogs.