Grantham leaves Georgia for Louisville

Whether Todd Grantham would be back for Georgia in 2014 swirled for some time this past season.

In the end, the defensive coordinator made the decision on his own to leave.

Grantham is joining Bobby Petrino’s new staff at Louisville as defensive coordinator, Georgia confirmed Sunday night.

“We are appreciative of all the contributions Todd has made to our program and wish him nothing but the best,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said in a statement. “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.”

Richt is at a national coaching convention in Indianapolis and could talk to prospective candidates there and elsewhere.

Former Georgia defensive back Kirby Smart is a logical candidate. The Alabama defensive coordinator turned down a chance to come to Georgia in 2010 before Grantham was hired.

Houston defensive coordinator David Gibbs has been contacted about the position, according to CBS’ Bruce Feldman. Gibbs, who has NFL coaching experience, was Auburn’s defensive coordinator in 2005. He coached a defense that led the nation in turnovers gained and ranked 20th in scoring defense.

Richt could look internally to make a hire.

Inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti has an NFL background and coached productive players in NFL first-round pick Alec Ogletree and 2012 SEC leading tackler Ramik Wilson. Olivadotti said Sunday night he’s not joining Grantham at Louisville

Defensive line coach Chris Wilson, who completed his first year on staff, was a defensive coordinator at Mississippi State.

Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said that Grantham notified him Saturday as required by his contract that Louisville wanted to talk to him about its defensive coordinator position in a brief conversation.

Kevin Steele, Alabama’s director of player personnel, reportedly turned down the Louisville defensive coordinator position earlier after Petrino was hired this past week.

Grantham will get $1 million guaranteed per year in a five-year deal, according to ESPN’s Joe Schad who first reported the news.

Grantham made $850,000 per year at Georgia in a three-year contract that ran through the end of next season.

“Like they say, it’s just business,” Georgia defensive end Sterling Bailey tweeted.

Grantham did not respond to messages left for him Sunday night by the Athens Banner-Herald.

Richt said after the regular season that he expected Grantham to return, but added: “everybody’s got to do what they’ve got to do as far as if they have opportunities and all that kind of things.” He said continuity would be good for Georgia.

Richt was scheduled to have an end-of-season news conference Saturday but it was abruptly postponed because of what was said to be travel issues for Richt to be able to make it.

Grantham just finished his fourth season as defensive coordinator at Georgia. His contract states he would owe Georgia a buyout if he doesn’t leave for an NFL coordinator job or a head coaching job in college, but his buyout is only about $40,000.

Grantham was part of a staff that guided Georgia to the Southeastern Conference championship game in 2011 and 2012, but the Bulldogs defense struggled this past season while relying on young and inexperienced players after losing seven players to the NFL draft. Some viewed the Bulldogs’ defense as underperforming in 2012 with all that NFL talent.

Georgia finished eighth in the SEC in total defense last season, allowing 375.5 yards per game and the Bulldogs were 78th in the nation in scoring defense at 29.0 points per game.

Georgia’s defensive staff already had one change when secondary coach Scott Lakatos resigned on Thursday.

Grantham’s departure came three and a half weeks before signing day for recruits. There are six defensive players currently committed and there was no immediate indication that any were wavering from Georgia.

One recruit to watch will be Norcross defensive end Lorenzo Carter, one of the nation’s top remaining uncommitted prospects.

Georgia was in favorable position with him.

Grantham had sold Carter on filling a role like Jarvis Jones had as an outside linebacker in his 3-4 scheme. Carter told DawgPost.com Sunday that Grantham leaving “would change some things,” since

Grantham would have also been his position coach and he now he will “wait and see who the new coach is.”

Defensive end commitment Keyon Brown from Wauchula, Fla. tweeted: “I’m still a #Dawg. Good luck to coach Grantham. I didn’t commit to Coach Grantham, I committed to UGA. That’s not changing. #UGA. #Dawgs.”

Georgia is expected to return all but one starter from its defense next season. They will now wait to find out who will be coaching them as the Bulldogs’ new coordinator

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