Todd Grantham learned about the 3-4 defensive alignment when he coached for Nick Saban at Michigan State. Later, when he moved to the National Football League with the Colts, Browns, and Cowboys, the coordinators were advocates of the 3-4.
Football to the untrained eye may appear more static than it really is, especially in the NFL, but more often than not, you hear about offensive innovations. Most coaches will concede that, whatever alignments you come up with, success will always be determined by personnel and game-day execution.
Buddy Ryan popularized the 4-6 scheme when he was coaching. As Ryan remembers, Bill Parcels once said that Buddy's defense did more to change NFL football than the West Coast offense. However, when Parcels won his first Super Bowl with the Giants in 1986, he used the 3-4 defense. Parcels had begun using the 3-4 alignment in 1982 when he joined the Giants as defensive coordinator under Ray Perkins.
That first Giant Super Bowl team under Parcels had Lawrence Taylor, Carl Banks, Harry Carson, and Leonard Marshall on defense, which brings about the notion that any alignment would have been effective with that lineup.
Grantham knows the history of the 3-4 defense-who won with it, who tweaked it successfully, and who were the best teachers with the alignment.
Sit with him and talk football and you learn than he is insightful, first of all, but his easygoing style becomes immediately convincing that what he is, first and foremost, is a teacher.
And, a communicator and a motivator.
Early in the current preseason camp, there was this interesting scene in the Georgia locker room. At a break during the day, when they could have been resting and relaxing, the players instead had defensive diagrams spread out in the locker room and were talking and conversing among themselves, demonstrating they are eager to learn the nuances of Grantham's defense.
But make no mistake-underneath Grantham's easygoing demeanor, there is a fury when something goes wrong on the practice field. He will get in your face if you don't do it right-and for sure if you don't make an effort to do so.
There are multiple reasons Grantham became sold on the 3-4 defense, one of them being that it allows you to be "more multiple." While Grantham never filibusters, he can impart a lot of information in a brief but unbridled conversation.
"The key to the success of the 3-4 is that you must be physical up front. You've got to be hard to run on. The front seven must be very physical. You want the quarterback to have to hold the ball a second longer before he throws it. Your outside backers must get to the quarterback, harass and hurry him. In pro ball there is a lot of personnel turnover with free agency. College graduation creates the same challenge, so the 3-4, I think, helps you better utilize your personnel. We have some guys who can run, which is important, but the key is to be physical as you run. Defensive players must play special teams. One play can affect field position and can be the difference in a game.
"Kids generally want to learn. They want you to get after them. Will they take the easy way if they can? Yes, but that is the way it is in society. Kids have a lot of choices today, but so does society. We want our kids to leave here as better football players, which we hope will help them become more successful in life. What I like about being in college is that this is where you can develop players. I like that opportunity and have always taken pride in the development of players wherever I have coached.
"One of the reasons I came to Georgia is that I wanted to coach in the best conference in the country. The SEC is the best-no doubt about that. At Georgia you can attain any goal that you want. You can't find a better environment for success: geographic location, fan base, passionate fans, tradition, talent pool, sixth-largest stadium in the country. History is the best indicator of what the future holds. In the last nine years, Georgia has won 90 games, which says a lot.
"One of the things I have appreciated about our players is that they have worked hard this summer to learn our concepts. In addition, they have studied our system on their own. They came into camp in good shape, which is very important. Conditioning is a key. A fast-break basketball team has to be in shape to succeed. Same with us.
"To play winning defense, attitude, like execution, is important. You have to want to do things right. Every snap."