After receiving a tip last week that Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter had been spotted on campus with fmr. South Carolina Co-DC Lorenzo Ward, BarkBoard began working to confirm if there was anything to the rumor. Turns out that our sources were on to something. We're told that Ward will be the new defensive coordinator for the Bulldogs, a timely hire with National Signing Day just around the corner. The hire will likely mean that current DC Nick Toth will either share responsibilities or be demoted to linebackers, his former position.
Affectionately known as "Whammy," Ward has been the co-defensive coordinator for the Gamecocks since '12, he was also an associate head coach, and spent time running the secondary as well. Ward previously worked with the Arkansas Razorbacks secondary in '08. He was the defensive backs coach for the Virginia Tech Hokies from 1999-2006 (the great years), and he was a graduate assistant with the Alabama Crimson Tide in '91 and again in '93. For those concerned with the West Coast ties, Ward has one year of experience here in California with the Raiders back in 2007 under Lane Kiffin.
The move represents a quality hire for a Bulldog defense that ranked No. 102 in the nation in total defense, No. 119 in scoring defense, and No. 117 in rushing defense. The loss of defensive backs coach Marcus Woodson will also make Ward's rebuilding job a little more difficult. Despite their low defensive rankings, the Bulldogs finished the year No. 49 in the nation in passing defense, that was up from '99th in 2014. The loss of Woodson likely means Ward's first task will be to replace his skills not just in recruiting, but in developing players.
For Ward, the move couldn't have come at a better time. Will Muschamp was hired to replace the legendary Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier after he retired in the middle of the season due to unmet expectations. It was assumed that Muschamp would bring on his own staff and Ward was let go several weeks ago. DeRuyter's connections to the South appear to have brought Ward out West for a spell, and Bulldog fans couldn't be happier with the timing.
UPDATE: Sources in South Carolina tell us that the deal is not totally finished, but they are also expecting Ward to take the job with the Bulldogs. There are still one or two loose strings to tie up, we're told.