The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Grantham, English discuss new defense

New defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and safeties coach Ron English spoke to the media on Wednesday afternoon to discuss how the Mississippi State defense is looking for spring practice and in the future.

Grantham, who swapped positions with former defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon, came from Louisville and has previously been one of the top defensive coordinators in the country year in and year out. 

He has been a defensive coordinator for 10 years, where he coached for the Cleveland Browns, the University of Georgia, and most recently, the University of Louisville. 

Last season at Louisville, Grantham led the Cardinals to the 12th ranked run defense in the country which only gave up 115 yards per game. Overall, the Cardinals were the 14th ranked defense and gave up 322.2 yards per game. 

In five of his seven seasons at the college level, Grantham has finished in the top 20 in the country in either scoring defense or total defense. 

Grantham told the media that competitiveness is one of the most intriguing factors that brought him to Mississippi State.

“First of all, as a coach, you always look for challenges,” Grantham said. “Those things always intrigue you. The SEC, from top to bottom, is the most competitive, challenging conference in the nation. If you look at our schedule next year, we’re going to play some of the top teams in the country.”

He went on to talk about the skill level of past and present players and how that sparked his interest here, such as current NFL pro bowlers KJ Wright and Fletcher Cox.

“We have had a history of having good defensive players here,” Grantham said. “If you look at the past few years here, we have had a lot of NFL draftable guys here. We have had good players here and we want to re-establish that and get back to it.”

Last season, MSU’s defense was ranked 110th in total defense. They gave up 459.1 yards per game and gave up 31.8 points per game, which ranked 93rd in the country.

Grantham said he is not going to focus on one section of the defense, but is going to look at the defense as a whole to move forward and improve.

“I always look at defense as a team defense,” Grantham said. “When we’re good at stopping the run, the secondary is involved in that too, because they don’t give up explosive plays. And those guys are going to have gap fits and other things. I look at passing defense as a team defense also. When the other quarterback can hold the ball, that’s not a good thing. So we have to find ways to force the quarterback to get rid of the ball.”

English, who is serving as the safeties coach, has almost 20 years of experience in the FBS level. He has coached in nine bowl games with three of those being Rose Bowls. In 2006, he was named the 2006 National Defensive Coordinator of the Year. 

English said there are not many places he would want to coach besides the Big Ten and the SEC. He said his past games against Dan Mullen was the big reason why he wanted to come to Mississippi State. 

“Coach Mullen and I coached against each other a number of years ago when he had Tim Tebow down at Florida,” English said. “So I kind of knew about him. When he came here, he offered me a job here but at the time I had committed to another job. I knew him, and of course because of that I followed him at Mississippi State and he has done a wonderful job here.”

When he was asked about how he can help improve the defense, he told the media that the defense is going to begin with the coaching staff first, and that will flow into the players.

“To play defense, you have to leverage the ball,” English said. “Kids have to know exactly what they are doing and what they should be looking at. You have to finish plays and you have to get a pass rush. Really, I think it starts with the staff knowing exactly what we are doing, and being able to teach what needs to be taught in a consistent way so that players will be able to understand and execute.”

After a season that was a disappointment to many, the Bulldog faithful are looking to have a better season next season, and that starts with the defense. The Bulldogs are returning many key players such as Gerri Green, Leo Lewis, Brandon Bryant, Mark Mclaurin and Jamal Peters. 

With many players returning, the team also brought in nine early-enrollees from junior college and have the 4-star Willie Gay coming in to play. Mississippi State will look to add on to their seven straight bowl game appearance streak with strong defensive play.

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Grantham, English discuss new defense