As Gwinnett and others have already mentioned, USC has promoted Lorenzo Ward to defensive coordinator. I'll have to admit that I have been one of those who would have liked to see us make a splashy hire, such as Mike Stoops or Ron Zook. However, in the end, I think promoting Ward is a good move.
First things first, Ward has been a very solid position coach at Carolina. A lot of folks were down on him for how the secondary performed last year, but that was a young group of players, and we had no depth. One year later and with a more experienced, deep roster of defensive backs, Ward's group was one of the best in the country. That speaks to Ward's ability to coach up a talented-but-raw group of players.
Ward is also an excellent recruiter who has made deep inroads in Georgia's backyard; up until now, it has been unthinkable for us to go toe to toe with UGA for Peach State talent, but that's changing, partially due to Ward.
Moreover, Ward has been given more than the average space to develop his coordinator skills while coaching under Ellis Johnson, so he's more ready than the average position coach to take on head man duties. Although Ward doesn't have a lot of experience doing it, Spurrier and Johnson think he's ready to call plays, and if they think he's ready, he probably is.
There are some other things to keep in mind here, too. At most, it's hard to see Steve Spurrier coaching more than four or five more seasons. That being the case, Spurrier probably isn't interested in bringing in someone like Stoops or Zook, who would likely bolt for an opportunity to get back into a head-coaching position. Spurrier doesn't want the headache of an unstable coaching staff as he moves into the end-game of his coaching staff.
And it's not just the personal headaches that worry Spurrier. If that was all this is about, I would be against the move. But there's also the issue of maintaining continuity in approach. Ward is well-prepared to continue running Johnson's 4-2-5 scheme. That's the scheme we've recruited for over the past few years, and if we changed styles now, there would likely be a two-or-three year transition period. That would mean that Spurrier would waste the last few years of his career here fielding defenses with unsuitable personnel. Promoting Ward means we can continue to run the scheme that we've recruited for, and considering that we've recruited pretty well at the key spur position and have a talented potential commit--Jordan Diggs--who can play the position, this is probably a move well-suited to maintaining a high level of defensive play. On the personnel note, it should also be remembered that promoting Ward can't hurt with Stephon Gilmore's decision on whether or not to return next year; Gilmore has a good relationship with Ward.
The question now is who USC brings in to coach the linebackers. Hopefully, USC gets someone who's good with fundamentals and who can recruit his tail off.
Programming note: I'm still traveling for the holidays, so expect posting to continue being somewhat sporadic. I do plan to get something up on the schedule over the next few days, as well as final previews for the Capital One Bowl.