First-year defensive coordinator Todd Grantham didn’t waste any time developing an identity for the Mississippi State defense in the spring: Fast, physical and aggressive.

It’s paid off as Mississippi State is third in the SEC in total defense this season, and fourth in scoring defense.

“Once we got into that, of identifying how we wanted to play the game, it really got down to trying to develop the individual traits needed to play the game, as far as the habits relative to your position,” Grantham said in a Thursday interview on The Paul Finebaum Show. “Guys believe they can take coaching and they get better every week.”

Grantham came to Mississippi State from Louisville, but previously coached at Georgia. Earlier in his career, he was on the staff at Michigan State with Nick Saban where he coached the defensive line. Grantham also served as a defensive assistant in the NFL for 11 years.

“I’m really indebted to having the opportunity to work with Coach Saban when I did,” Grantham said. “The core things that I do now, or the beliefs that I have now as a coach really stems from that time frame. He certainly had an impact on my career and the thought processes that I have.”

Grantham and the Bulldogs will play host to Alabama on Saturday night. He said Alabama does a good job of putting players in position to win one-on-one matchups.

“From a percentage standpoint, if you do that enough, you’re going to make some plays,” Grantham said. “We understand that. We’re excited about the opportunity to play them and the challenges we have. So we look forward to a good test on Saturday.”