Photo: Todd Grantham; Credit: Alex Shepherd
The Florida Gators have relieved defensive coordinator Todd Grantham of his duties, according to Bruce Feldman of The Athletic. The team also relieved offensive line coach John Hevesy, per Feldman.
Grantham's eventual dismissal would not have come as a major surprise given the performances from his defense over the past two seasons, but to see it happen before the conclusion of the season is certainly eye-opening. Head coach Dan Mullen said after the Gators' loss to the LSU Tigers on Oct. 16 that he was against a midseason firing.
“Nah, I don’t like to jump to conclusions. It’s a long season on stuff right there," Mullen responded to the exact question. "I like to know the facts on everything that’s going on and what the issues are and what we’re doing and what we need to do to improve and how we’re going to do that.”
Yet only three weeks later, Grantham was let go.
Grantham began his career with the Gators alongside Mullen when the coaching staff was brought on in late 2017. Florida's defense quickly improved, finishing the 2018 season ranked No. 27 nationally and No. 6 in the SEC in team defense (338.7 yards allowed per game) and No. 20 nationally/No. 6 SEC in scoring defense (20 points allowed per game). The Gators' passing defense ranked No. 12 in the country and No. 2 in the conference allowing 178.9 yards per game through the air.
The Gators' best season under Grantham came a year later in 2019, sparked by the transfer of Louisville edge rusher Jonathan Greenard who had previously played under Grantham with the Cardinals. The Gators finished top ten nationally in scoring (15.5 PPG) and total defense (306.6 YPG), ranking No. 2 in the SEC in both categories. UF also averaged 1.8 turnovers per game, tied for 17th-most in the country.
Everything proceeded to fall apart in 2020, though, lending credence to the well-known "Third and Grantham" adage. The defense lost stars in Greenard and cornerback C.J. Henderson to the NFL Draft as well as long-time middle linebacker David Reese II as he ran out of eligibility, and proceeded to regress mightily.
Florida would finish No. 74 nationally/No. 8 SEC in scoring (30.8 PPG) and No. 83 nationally/No. 9 SEC in team defense (428 YPG) in Grantham's third year with the program. Despite the Gators' historic performance offensively, the defense held UF back from contending in the College Football Playoff, struggling immensely with communication, finishing tackles, and in coverage. The best example of this theory was Florida's 52-46 loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship.
Grantham's defense was better in 2021, but still flawed. The unit improved across the board statistically but players continued to take poor angles to ball carriers and miss tackles as a result. Communication errors were limited in comparison to 2020, but occasional mishaps still led to explosive plays given up.
The unit finished ranking No. 63 in the nation in points allowed per game (24.7) and No. 45 in yards per game (353.6) in 2021 upon Grantham's departure.
The loss to LSU specifically stands out. Tigers running back Tyrion Davis-Price rushed for 287 yards on 36 attempts in Week 7, a record number of yards allowed to one player in Gators history. LSU limited its offense to counter and power rushes as the game went on. primarily in the opposite direction of UF's top defensive linemen Zachary Carter and Gervon Dexter, and Grantham failed to adjust to the rushing attack whatsoever.
Grantham's unit rebounded decently against the Georgia Bulldogs on Oct. 30, the game after the loss to LSU, allowing just three points until roughly two minutes before halftime. The Gators' offense would commit three turnovers before halftime, gifting the Bulldogs a pick-six and two drives on Florida's side of the field. UF's defense forced three turnovers, each falling into the hands of safety Rashad Torrence II, but could not make up for the team's offensive struggles in the end.
However, things hit rock-bottom (once again) for the Gators' defense this past Saturday against South Carolina. The Gamecocks were down to their third-string quarterback, former FCS transfer Jason Brown, and managed to score 40 points while gaining 459 yards in total.
Mullen and UF are expected to begin searching for a new defensive coordinator immediately.
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