Next up on our coaching caravan is Georgia.
Coach: Tony Ball
Position: Wide receivers
Experience: He's entering his sixth season on Georgia's staff and his third as the Bulldogs' wide receivers coach. Ball, 51, coached the Georgia running backs his first three seasons in Athens from 2006-08. Prior to coming to Georgia, Ball spent eight seasons as the wide receivers coach at Virginia Tech from 1998-2005. He was the receivers coach at Louisville for three seasons in 1995-97 and also coached on the staffs at Holy Cross, UT-Chattanooga and East Tennessee State. Ball alternated between coaching running backs and receivers at those stops. Ball got his coaching start at Austin Peay in 1985-86 as a graduate assistant.
Of note: Ball was one of two assistant coaches on Georgia's staff to receive a raise following the Bulldogs' 6-7 season a year ago. He went from $165,480 to $200,000 after receiving what Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said was a legit offer from another school. Running backs coach Bryan McClendon was the other assistant to get a raise and went from $90,000 to $200,000. ... Ball was a standout running back at UT-Chattanooga and played for the late Joe Morrison. Ball later coached under Morrison at South Carolina in 1987 as a volunteer assistant. ... In 1977, Ball led the nation in kickoff returns with a 36.4-yard average and was inducted into the school's Hall of Fame in 2007.
His challenge: The truth is that A.J. Green would make a lot of coaches, a lot of quarterbacks and a lot of offenses look good, but he's gone now. Ball got a glimpse of what life without Green would be like the first four games of the season a year ago when Green was serving his NCAA-mandated suspension, and it wasn't pretty. The Bulldogs clearly missed his playmaking ability. They've had time to plan without him now, not to mention the steady Kris Durham, who had 32 catches last season as a senior, and Ball's task is taking a group of receivers with decent experience and making it more dynamic and more consistent across the board. Senior Tavarres King, who's bigger and stronger, says he's ready to go from the second option to the go-to guy in the Bulldogs' passing game. He caught 27 passes, including three touchdowns, a year ago. Another key project for Ball is getting more out of junior split end Marlon Brown, who was highly recruited, but has caught just 13 passes his first two seasons. Brown showed considerable improvement toward the end of last season and during the spring. Junior flanker Rantavious Wooten needs to step up his game, while redshirt freshman Michael Bennett and true freshmen Chris Conley and Malcolm Mitchell will also factor into the equation. Conley went through the spring, so it won't be completely new to him. The Bulldogs have the best quarterback in the league in Aaron Murray. We'll find out about his receivers this fall.