August 16, 2017 9:54:21 AM
STARKVILLE -- The Todd Grantham way taking a foothold in the Mississippi State football program has come with a specific tagline -- fast, physical and aggressive -- among other calling cards.
It also comes with a specific, well-rehearsed plan for season preparation.
MSU's new defensive coordinator, having held such position at now three schools over the last six seasons, has a very specific plan for how he designs his preseason preparation, first year with a new school included.
"I've always broken training camp into three segments," Grantham said. "The first segment is to continue to develop our technique in our craft and evaluate the incoming guys. As you evaluate the new guys coming into your system, you try to see what combination of players give us the best opportunity to win and how the incoming players fit into that."
By all accounts, that first segment of training camp is over. Grantham said earlier this week that it has its defensive line packages more or less set and the staff has now moved its focus to getting those player combinations reps within said packages.
"The middle segment of training camp is to work on your season," Grantham said. "There's a lot of offenses that you face and I don't like to come into Monday with no experience on that, so we work on the offenses we'll see this year."
In outlaying that plan publicly, he did something he never did with former players.
Matthew DeGenova was a Georgia linebacker from 2008-2011 and played under Grantham from 2010 on. DeGenova, when told of Grantham's preseason layout, originally did not remember such a plan. Upon reconsidering his two preseasons under Grantham, he understood what his former coach was up to.
"We would always do some sort of install during that time, a day or two," DeGenova said. "We would always do a couple of days of install so that it when it came to that one week against (Georgia) Tech, it wouldn't be anything new, we always had that base to build upon."
Georgia Tech was used as the example since Georgia's schedule most often featured no teams like the Yellow Jackets and their flexbone triple option offense, a system based on a triple option around a fullback and two slot running backs. As a linebacker, preparing for that system often required numerous reps against cut blocks, blocks designed to take defenders out at the knees, and the presnap motion specific to that offense.
DeGenova added Grantham would also add in a day of Georgia Tech installation during the team's bye week. With the Georgia Tech game not coming around until late November, it may not be apparent that two days of prep in August and another randomly in October would give the team a head start, but DeGenova swears by it.
"I think having that base from, even if it is just one, two or three days of install from earlier in the year," he said, "getting reps against that triple option comes more natural to you."
MSU is due to come out of that middle phase of preseason practice in the coming days, with kickoff against Charleston Southern just 17 days away when MSU students return to class Wednesday. In the final phase, the Buccaneers will be squarely in the crosshairs.
"The last phase is to work on your first opponent because you want to start off with a good start," Grantham said.
Over recent seasons, that singular focus on the first opponent has paid off in some respects. Since Grantham took his first collegiate defensive coordinator position in 2010, the average offense in terms of yards per play has hovered somewhere in between the 5.5 and 5.7 yards per play range. Grantham's defenses have held season-opening opponents under that threshold in five of the last seven years, including the 2014 Miami offense that finished 11th nationally that season in yards per play.
Over that span Grantham's teams are 4-3 in season openers.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter, @Brett_Hudson
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