Reports came through this morning that Georgia Wide Receivers coach Tony Ball has accepted the same position at LSU.
Tony Ball confirms to me via text that he has in fact accepted a job to be the wide receivers coach at #LSU.— Anthony Dasher (@AnthonyDasher1) February 13, 2015
At Georgia, Ball coached A.J. Green, Tavarres King, and Kris Durham, who all found NFL jobs. He was also the running backs coach during Knowshon Moreno's career. At Virginia Tech, Ball coached the school's all-time leading receiver, Ernest Wilford, as well as Eddie Royal, who was a Freshman All-American under his tutelage.
Ball's coaching chops are well admired. David Ching, who covered Georgia prior to his stint now covering LSU for ESPN.com had this to say:
FWIW my impression of new LSU WR coach Tony Ball from covering at UGA: good technical coach, demanding, precise. Will do well w/ LSU talent.— David Ching (@ESPNChing) February 13, 2015
Tyler Dawgden of Dawg Sports added this:
@ATVS_PaulCrewe @ESPNChing UGA will have to work hard to replace his coaching/teaching ability.— Tyler Dawgden (@TylerDawgden) February 13, 2015
Here's some thoughts from Senator Blutarsky of Get the Picture, whose work can be found here.
Very good teacher of fundamentals, including down field blocking. Georgia's receivers vastly improved their pass catching skills under Ball from his predecessor, too.
I can't say what the specific knock on him as a recruiter is, but if you look at the results, it's pretty clear that his role in that department hasn't been much. Georgia hasn't pulled in many five-star WRs during Ball's tenure, and the kid they did pull in this year's class, Terry Godwin, wasn't Ball's responsibility. (Although Godwin likes Ball, judging from the tweet he sent the other day about Ball's likely departure.)
EDITED: MaconDawg of DawgSports also offered this glowing review:
I'm not sure you'll find a single Georgia fan who doesn't think Tony Ball is a great receivers coach. From NFL players like AJ Green, Marlon Brown and Kris Durham to more recent players like Chris Conley and Michael Bennett, his charges have always run great routes, been great blockers, and generally been solid citizens. One particularly great skill which he has fostered among the Bulldog receivers is the most basic one of all: catching the darn ball. Under his predecessor John Eason, Georgia struggled through two or three years of absolutely epidemic drops.
If you hear any gripe about Ball it will be about his recruiting. My sense is that he is probably not in the Trooper Taylor "Ra Ra! I'm your best buddy" school of recruiting. He is exacting, he is a taskmaster, he demands perfection. He does not promise anything. While that might not make him everyone's favorite coach on national signing day, it guarantees that his players perform on game day. Given the number of solid recruiters on the LSU staff and the number of outstanding wide receivers both and state and regionally who want to come play for the Tigers, I don't think Ball's recruiting prowess is an issue. It's also worth saying that he has actually recruited some outstanding wide receivers. If you use 247Sports' composite rankings, Georgia's last three receiver classes break down like this: 1 five star, 5 four stars, 5 three stars. That's not exactly mind-blowing, but it's also not bad, especially given that most of those guys have actually contributed. There have been very few abject busts at receiver under Ball.
And frankly, when's the last time Georgia didn't feature a strong crew of WRs? Almost always a deep and well-coached group. I think the talent on hand in Baton Rouge should flourish under Ball's coaching.
The other side of the equation is recruiting. Georgia fans often complain about the number of top targets leaving the state, most notably guys like Preston Williams this year and Demarcus Robinson two years ago. When you survey his list of commitments, it's not sparkling. Let me offer a couple of caveats here, though.
First, Georgia is more traditionally poached than Louisiana. In 2015, for example, the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th, and 10th ranked players from the State all chose to go elsewhere (two of them to LSU). It would have been 8 of 10, had UCLA not lost their DC to the NFL and Roquan Smith bailed on his commitment to them. Conversely, LSU pulled 6 of Louisiana's top players, and two of the four who left weren't heavily recruited in the first place.
Second, Georgia isn't a great state for WR talent. Tremendous on the DL and at RB, but top flight WRs are far more prevalent in Louisiana, even. A.J. Green is from South Carolina, for example. There's also this, from stud WR Terry Godwin, whom Ball didn't not serve as lead recruiter for:
"@ecdawg_BI: Tony Ball a Finalist for LSU Wide Receiver Coach? - Bulldawg Illustrated http://t.co/U2NPXnY7WO #Dawgs #UGA" ARE YOU SERIOUS??— Cinco #5 (@TerryGodwin_4) February 9, 2015
Sorry about that tweet earlier just a little upset and I still respect CTB and UGA... Hope he and you all forgive me— Cinco #5 (@TerryGodwin_4) February 11, 2015
Godwin clearly isn't thrilled with the news.
So it's safe to say Ball isn't a great recruiter, and likely a step back from Henry, who wasn't an ace, but was a solid hand. He also doesn't fit the profile of a young up and comer. Ball is 55 years old, and more of an old coaching hand.
My feelings are somewhat mixed on the hire, but generally, I like it. I don't think LSU will majorly regress in recruiting, especially not with a staff chocked full of aces like Wilson, Raymond, Orgeron and Steele. Let those guy do what they do best. They get Ball the talent and he turns the talent into NFL pros, and the position continues to recruit itself. Outside of Beckham and Landry, it's not like LSU has a ton of great things to point to for stud WRs, but they still had no problem snagging another group of studs in this signing class. I don't think Ball is a HR hire, but he's probably a solid double.
This completes the staff, barring a coach taking one of the other vacancies that have developed over the past couple of weeks.
How do you feel about the hire? Is Ball the man for the job?