Update: According to Chip Towers of the Atlanta-Journal-Constitution, Stanford's Lance Taylor, who was initially reported to be replacing Ball, turned the job down. Now, Thomas Brown, a former Georgia running back and an assistant at Wisconsin, has been announced as joining the Georgia staff. He will coach the running backs and Bryan McClendon will move to coach the wide receivers, which was the initial recommendation at the tail-end of this article.
Update: According to Chip Towers of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, Georgia has tabbed Lance Taylor, formerly the running backs coach at Stanford, as the replacement for Tony Ball.
Taylor has ties to defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt (both were at Alabama in 2007 and 2008) and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer (Taylor was with Schottenheimer and the New York Jets as an offensive assistant).
Taylor brings good experience as an offensive assistant at the collegiate level and should add value immediately.
A popular name is gaining widespread support to fill Georgia's wide receivers coach position vacated by Tony Ball last Friday.
Ball, who spent nine years in Athens and is moving on to LSU, told Chip Towers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "The timing was just right and it was a great opportunity."
Now, the hope of many is that former Bulldog and Super Bowl champ Hines Ward may find the opening in Athens equally appealing and that the timing and opportunity might bring a legend home.
But the Bulldogs should not consider Ward for the wide receivers coach job.
Though Ward obviously knows the game and excelled in his playing days as a route-runner, pass-catcher and tenacious blocker, he does not boast coaching experience. Georgia needs a coach capable of relating to and educating young, unproven receivers immediately.
There's no time to wait out a learning curve when high-quality teaching is needed so urgently.
Heading into the 2015 season, Georgia returns just one wide receiver who accounted for more than 67 total receiving yards in 2014, and that lone stalwart is an oft-injured fifth-year senior (Malcolm Mitchell):
|Georgia Returning Wide Receiver Production|
|Player||Receiving Yards in 2014||TD Catches in 2014|
There is talent in this bunch—and more talent arriving as part of the most recent recruiting haul—but the potential of this group is largely unknown. Even players who have shown brilliance in the past saw their stock decrease in 2014.
Mitchell, who was one of the best freshmen receivers in the country in 2011 before splitting time at defensive back in 2012 and going down with an injury in 2013, lacked explosion in 2014.
After averaging 14.8 yards per catch as a true freshman and 14.3 yards per reception as a sophomore, he slipped to an even eight-yard average last season.
Justin Scott-Wesley, who was having a breakout season in 2013 (16 catches for 311 yards and two touchdowns in five games) before being injured, played in just two games in 2014. He registered just three receptions.
Reggie Davis, who set the school record with a 98-yard touchdown reception in 2013, accounted for just 63 yards on six catches last season.
The questions surrounding this group are made even more critical by an unknown quarterback situation, as three potential starters—Brice Ramsey, Faton Bauta and Jacob Park—continue to jockey for position.
To maintain a balanced offense, Georgia needs excellence from its wide receivers, and it's going to take a lot of coaching to get there. And that's where Georgia's apparent emphasis on winning now comes into play.
Everything Georgia has done this offseason has placed an impetus on winning sooner than later.
Head coach Mark Richt and defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt both received sizable raises. When an offensive coordinator was needed to replace Mike Bobo, money was spent on a longtime NFL assistant in Brian Schottenheimer.
Georgia isn't spending this money and protecting these assets with a long-term vision. If that was the plan, Ward would—at least in theory—be an obvious choice. He's a big name who would excite the alumni and grow into an undoubtedly stellar recruiter while simultaneously learning the ropes of collegiate coaching.
But if Georgia wants to win now, Ward is not the answer. Perhaps another former Bulldog fits the bill.
Current running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Bryan McClendon actually played wide receiver at Georgia. Switching him to the void left by Ball could allow Georgia to bring in Thomas Brown, a former Georgia running back, to coach Nick Chubb and company.
Brown was at Georgia as recently as 2011 as an assistant strength coach before moving on to Chattanooga, Marshall and Wisconsin.
In his first season at Wisconsin as running backs coach, Melvin Gordon was the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy and combined with Corey Clement to set the FBS record for single-season rushing yards by two teammates.
McClendon, who has continually advanced at Georgia, wouldn't need long to adjust to coaching the position he starred at in his collegiate days. Brown could be an asset from the outset while working with talented running backs like Chubb and Sony Michel.
Ward would be a high-risk hire, and the potential payout could be several years away.
With an emphasis on winning immediately, unproven players at the position and questions surrounding the quarterback position, he's not worth the gamble.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com.