[dropcap]G[/dropcap]eorgia has only had one spring practice, but the Bulldogs have already gotten their first victory of 2013.
Bulldogs wide receivers coach Tony Ball interviewed for the running backs opening at Tennessee last week and was offered the job, but turned down the offer to remain in Athens.
Mark Richt said he was “thrilled” with the decision.
“Tony’s one of the best coaches I’ve been around,” Richt told reporters following the Bulldogs’ first spring practice on Saturday. “He’s just so meticulous in his work. He’s not taking anything for granted with these kids. He’s going to teach them the fundamentals of how to play that position from the very grassroots. Every little detail you would think of, he’s going to cover it. If you’re coachable and teachable, you’re going to get better because of Coach Ball.”
Tennessee came calling after Jay Graham left for the same position at Florida State. Butch Jones also interviewed former Chicago Bears assistant Tim Spencer and West Virginia’s Robert Gillespie. When Ball said no, Jones hired Gillespie.
Ball currently has a one-year contract and earns $210,000 a year. Graham’s salary at Tennessee was to be $225,000. Though Georgia Athletic Director Greg McGarity would not confirm that Ball will receive a salary increase, it seems likely that he will soon get a new contract and raise.
Ball came to Georgia in 2006 from Virginia Tech, where he was coaching receivers, but he coached running backs his first three years in Athens. He moved back to receivers when Richt promoted Bryan McClendon (a former Bulldog wide receiver) from graduate assistant coach to running backs coach in 2009 and moved Ball.
According to Richt, that flexibility is part of what makes him so valuable.
“I also see Tony as a guy who has a great understanding of the big picture,” he said. “I think Tony understands the running game, I think he understands the passing game and he’s got some really strong leadership qualities, too. I think he’s a guy that could be a coordinator one day somewhere. But I’m really glad he’s here.”
Ball is the third Georgia assistant coach who was seriously courted by other teams since the end of the season. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham interviewed for the same position with the New Orleans Saints and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo was offered the same job with Virginia Tech this year.
Defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner left to join Gus Malzahn’s Auburn staff in December.
While the other courtings created a stir on talk radio and message boards, Ball’s flirtation with Tennessee was much more low key.
“I don’t even know if the players knew what was going on,” Richt said. “Tony’s a very private guy. But I sure am glad he’s staying.”