Bryan McClendon's NFL defection gives Kirby Smart easy excuse to hire UGA legend

Bryan McClendon going to the NFL means Kirby Smart will have an easy decision to make to replace him. Here is who the Georgia head coach needs to hire to coach up his wide receivers.

Kirby Smart, Georgia Bulldogs
Kirby Smart, Georgia Bulldogs / Todd Kirkland/GettyImages

The coaching carousel is not quite done. While only the Georgia State Panthers are without a full-time head coach at the moment, coaching staffs both in college football and in the NFL are still being finalized for next season. With former Kentucky offensive coordinator Liam Coen taking over on that side of the ball for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he has clearly prioritized adding college coaches.

Not only is Coen bringing with him former Kentucky senior analyst Brian Picucci with him to Tampa, but he was able to pry a well-thought-of assistant coach in Bryan McClendon off Kirby Smart's Georgia staff. McClendon will coach wide receivers for the Buccaneers like he did in Athens. Georgia already lost defensive backs coach Fran Brown to the Syracuse Orange's head-coaching vacancy.

Given that Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles' son Troy plays for Smart at UGA, I would venture to guess that he would like to see the Dawgs succeed on Saturdays in addition to the Buccaneers on Sunday. For that reason, I think it would serve Smart to hire one of his former Bulldogs teammates and close friends in Georgia star and Pittsburgh Steelers legend Hines Ward to replace McClendon.

Ward has been a coach for the better part of seven years dating back to 2017. It is time for him to come home. Ward played Between the Hedges from 1994 to 1997, overlapping with Smart then.

After stepping down as the San Antonio Brahmas' head coach, this looks like a fantastic opportunity.

Bryan McClendon's NFL departure could bring Hines Ward back to UGA

Upon retirement from playing in 2011, Ward began a career in media, working most notably with NBC. In the last several years, he has been all about coaching. I had the unique opportunity to speak with him over Zoom back in November, and Ward could not be happier than seeing his former Georgia teammates in Smart, Mike Bobo and Will Muschamp having success great success back in Athens.

Since getting into the coaching profession, Ward has held a multitude of roles. He has been an offensive intern with the Steelers (2017), an offensive assistant with the New York Jets (2019-20), a wide receivers coach with the Florida Atlantic Owls (2021) and a head coach of an XFL team (2023). To me, Ward is more than qualified to join Smart's staff as a position coach that is perfect for him.

Keep in mind that spring practice is about to commence and that Muschamp will be stepping aside to be a defensive analyst so he can spend more time with his family. Bobo is only entering his second season back as the offensive coordinator. Georgia is probably the favorite to win the national championship next year. Smart will do whatever he wants, but hiring Ward would be so very cool.

Just because it feels like a seamless fit doesn't mean that Ward will surely be taking over at UGA.

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