We're continuing the spotlight series on assistant coaches in the ACC, and it's Louisville's turn to be put under the microscope.
Assistant: Todd Grantham
Title: Defensive coordinator/outside linebackers coach
Why he is in the spotlight: Grantham isn't being profiled because he is under pressure or on the hot seat. It's quite the opposite for the second-year Cardinals assistant, who Georgia fans chased out of Athens after one of the worst defensive seasons in school history.
Grantham orchestrated a brilliant defensive performance at Louisville in 2014, and the Cardinals were among the best nationally in nearly every major statistical category. They tied for the national lead in interceptions (26) and finished 24th in scoring, sixth in total defense, and 11th in sacks. They did this while adjusting to Grantham's 3-4 defensive scheme.
Six defensive players were drafted.
But that means the Cardinals are now replacing six NFL picks. Playmakers Lorenzo Mauldin and Gerod Holliman are among the departed. How well will Grantham plug in new pieces to prevent any significant drop off in defensive production?
The good news is the Cardinals still have NFL talent littered across the roster, and a thank you is in order to former coach and defensive wizard Charlie Strong. Keith Kelsey, James Burgess and Sheldon Rankins are all very good players that will keep the front seven solid.
The secondary could be shaky, however. Charles Gaines, Gerod Holliman and James Sample were all drafted. Shaq Wiggins and Josh Harvey-Clemons are castoffs, albeit talented ones, that have not played a down for the Cardinals.
It would be a discredit to Grantham and his defense to say that turnovers and interceptions are based in luck. However, a bit of good fortune does play a part in turnovers, and it would seem unlikely the Cardinals would be able to rack up the interceptions again at the same clip as they did in 2014.
A telling stat that favors Grantham's ability to keep the defense playing at a high level is a closer examination of those turnovers. Rarely did the turnovers bail out the Cardinals' defense. Of the 30 turnovers, which ranked seventh nationally, the Cardinals held the offense to without a first down on that drive. Nineteen of the turnovers came within the first three plays of an offense's drive, and only once did an opposing offense drive 60 yards before turning it over.
Turnovers always have a touch of luck to them, but the Cardinals defense didn't always need them in order to keep offenses from the red zone.
The spotlight is on Grantham not because he needs to do better but rather it's an interest in what he can devise to bolster a revamped defense.