News out of Columbia today is that Coach Spurrier has hired former Arkansas secondary coach Lorenzo Ward to fill the same spot at Carolina; Ward replaces Ron Cooper, who departed for LSU. Spurrier has now filled his four vacancies, with Ward replacing Cooper in the secondary, G. A. Mangus replacing David Reaves as QB coach, Craig Fitzgerald replacing Mark Smith as Strength and Conditioning coach, and Eric Wolford replacing John Hunt as OL coach. Let's take a moment to review these hires based on the relative merits of the new and old coaches.
Eric Wolford / John Hunt
As I noted here, Eric Wolford, who comes from Illinois, appears to be capable of everything that John Hunt wasn't. Wolford has led offenses that were among the best in the nation in rushing and his QBs haven't been sacked as much as ours have under Hunt's leadership of our line. I'm willing to grant that some of this may owe to the face that Wolford coached a run-first offense and had the mobile Juice Williams as a QB for the past two years, but I'm still very happy with this hire. Wolford is also a good recruiter who has played a role in helping Ron Zook get talent to come to Urbana-Champaign.
G. A. Mangus / David Reaves
As I point out here, Mangus also appears to be a home run. David Reaves was a good recruiter but his success developing QBs has been, well, way below par. Mangus, on the other hand, has had a lot of success both as an offensive coordinator / QB coach and as a head coach at the Division III level. As a former Spurrier QB, moreover, he comes in with knowledge of the OBC's offensive system. Again, very happy with this hire.
Craig Fitzgerald / Mark Smith
Not really sure what to make of this hire. First of all, Smith, who followed David Reaves to Tennessee, had mixed success here. At times, we had to deal with lots of coniditioning and injury issues, but this past year we typically avoided the injury bug to Smith's credit. Fitzgerald, on the other hand, had had success as the S & C coach at Harvard, but one has to wonder how well that experience will translate to major FBS football, where Fitzgerald will be working with a different caliber of athlete. That said, however, common sense tells you that most S & C coaches, whatever level they coach at, preach the same sermon: get in the weight room and bust your butt, eat a healthy diet, don't do anything stupid. Certainly, S & C coaching is more complicated than this, but, at the same time, having a poorly conditioned team probably reflects more on a lack of dedication on the players' part than it does on the coach. Therefore, while I'm not completely happy with this hire, I'm also not sure how important I think the position is, although I'm willing to listen to what someone who knows more about S & C coaching can tell me to the contrary.
Lorenzo Ward / Ron Cooper
Cooper has coached some of the better secondaries in the nation during his time in Columbia, so his departure is not an easy pill to swallow. However, at least some of Cooper's success if due to the amount of talent we've had at the positions he's coached. There have also been reports that he hasn't been a positive force in the locker room. Ward, on the other hand, comes from Arkansas, where he coached one year with below par results. Prior to his time in Fayetteville, he coached briefly in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders and for many years at Virginia Tech. Ward generally fielded good secondaries during his time under Frank Beamer and Bud Foster at VTU. While Ward's Arkansas secondary is hardly a mark in his favor, he does have a record of success and, moreover, he didn't have a lot to work with this year in Hog Town; it's also worth noting that his unit got better as the year progressed. Ward is also known as a good recruiter who was able to sell guys on the VTU program before it was known as a powerhouse. Overall, this appears to be a very good hire, although one has to wonder how much better Ward can be than Cooper.
Overall, I see reason to be optimistic about these hires. Spurrier hit home runs last year with Ellis Johnson and Ray Rychleski, and all indications are the Wolford and Mangus will provide similar steps up at their respective positions. Fitzgerald and Ward may be question marks to some degree, but if Fitzgerald can get the guys to work hard and with the talent Ward inherits, we should be OK.