STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI/MSU Athletics) – Todd Grantham, one of the elite defensive minds in the country with over 25 years of combined experience at the college and NFL levels, has been named defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Mississippi State, head coach Dan Mullen announced on Wednesday.
Grantham has spent 10 seasons as a defensive coordinator, including most recently at Louisville since 2014 where he molded the Cardinals into one of the top units nationally. His squads ranked in the top-20 nationally in either scoring or total defense in five of his seven seasons as a college defensive coordinator, including all three years at Louisville.
“Todd has proven to be one of the best defensive coordinators in the country this decade,” MSU head coach Dan Mullen said. “He understands what it takes to build a physical and aggressive defense at the highest of levels. We are excited to welcome he and his family to Starkville.”
“When the opportunity to be part of Dan Mullen’s staff presented itself it was something my family and I became very excited about,” Grantham said. “Coach Mullen has built a winning program in the most challenging conference in the country. Along with our staff, I look forward to re-establishing the Bulldog defense as one of the top defenses in the country and making the fans of Mississippi State proud.”
Grantham’s commitment to an aggressive and physical style was evident in Louisville’s run defense, which finished top-15 nationally in all three of his seasons. The Cardinals were 12th against the run in 2016 (115.2 ypg), 14th in 2015 (120.2 ypg) and No. 10 in 2014 (108.9 ypg). They notably held All-American and Doak Walker Award finalist Dalvin Cook to only 54 yards on the ground in a 63-20 victory over Florida State on Sept. 17, 2016. In the last five years, Louisville ranks second nationally in yards per carry defense (3.3) behind only Alabama (2.6).
Grantham’s unit finished No. 14 nationally in total defense in 2016 (322.2 ypg), No. 18 in 2015 (332.8 ypg) and No. 6 in 2014 (308.5). His 2014 squad led the nation in interceptions with 26, while the Cardinals have posted a three-year total of 58, which is tops nationally during that span.
Grantham, a native of Pulaski, Va., saw seven players drafted into the NFL during his tenure at Louisville. He tutored Devonte’ Fields, who led the country in tackles for loss per game (1.73) in 2015 and was voted first-team All-ACC in 2016. Fields is considered one of the top pass rushing prospects in the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft.
Graham developed outside linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin into a first-team All-ACC selection in 2014 and a third round 2015 NFL Draft selection of the New York Jets. The Cardinals’ other starting linebacker that season, Deiontrez Mount was a sixth-round pick of the Tennessee Titans.
Grantham joined the Louisville staff after four seasons as Georgia’s defensive coordinator (2010-13), including two seasons as the associate head coach under Mark Richt. During his time with Georgia, the Bulldogs advanced to four consecutive bowl games and compiled a 36-18-1 record with Grantham at the helm of the defense.
The 2012 season saw the Bulldogs finish with a 12-2 record, which included a loss to Alabama, the eventual national champion, in the SEC Championship Game. Georgia, champions of the Capital One Bowl, ended the campaign 18th in the country in scoring defense (19.6 ppg), holding five opponents to 10 or fewer points, and eighth nationally in pass defense (175.6 ypg).
In his second season at Georgia in 2011, the defense showed a dramatic jump in the national statistics. The group finished the year fifth nationally in total defense (277.2 ypg; 11th versus rushing, 10th versus passing), third in third-down defense (28.9 percent), fifth in interceptions (20), and seventh in turnovers gained (32), which ranked first in the SEC.
Grantham’s impressive resume includes an 11-year NFL career, lastly as the Dallas Cowboys defensive line coach.
He was with the Cowboys for two years after spending three seasons as defensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns (2005-07), and six years as defensive line coach for both the Houston Texans (2002-04) and Indianapolis Colts (1999-01). He helped the Browns to a 10-win season in 2007.
The Cowboys’ defensive unit was one of the best in the league, ranking second in scoring defense (15.6 ppg), fourth in rushing defense (90.5 ypg), seventh in sacks (42), and ninth in total defense (315.9 ypg). Dallas finished eighth in the NFL in total defense in 2008 and led the league with 59 sacks.
In addition, Dallas nose guard Jay Ratliff, a sixth round draft choice, was named to consecutive Pro Bowls under Grantham and All-Pro Demarcus Ware recorded a career-high 20 sacks in 2008.
Prior to his tenure with the Colts, Grantham made his name in the collegiate ranks, when he served for three seasons as Michigan State’s defensive line coach and one as assistant head coach at Michigan State under Nick Saban. Grantham also spent six years (1990-95) at his alma mater, Virginia Tech, coaching defensive ends and inside linebackers (1990-91) and defensive tackles (1992-93).
In 1995, the Hokies ranked first nationally in rushing defense, fifth in scoring defense, and 10th in total defense. Virginia Tech totaled 50 sacks en route to the BIG EAST title and a Sugar Bowl triumph over Texas in 1995.
During his career, Grantham worked under several successful defensive minds on both the pro and college levels, including Saban, Frank Beamer and Bud Foster at Virginia Tech, Romeo Crennel at Cleveland, Dom Capers at Houston and Wade Phillips at Dallas.
Grantham played guard and tackle for the Hokies from 1984-88. He earned second-team All-South and honorable mention All-America honors as a senior. He earned a bachelor’s degree in sports management from Virginia Tech in 1989.
Born Sept. 13, 1966, in Pulaski, Va. Grantham and his wife, Paige, have a son, Corbin, and a daughter, Olivia.