e Lorig will serve as special teams coordinator and coach a yet-to-be-determined defensive position
LUBBOCK, Texas – Texas Tech head coach Matt Wells tabbed another familiar face to his coaching staff Tuesday with the hiring of Joe Lorig as special teams coordinator. Lorig’s defensive coaching assignment will be announced at a later date.
This is Lorig’s second stint working under Wells as he was previously on the Utah State staff from 2014-15 before moving to Memphis where he has spent the previous three seasons as the Tigers’ special teams coordinator and outside linebackers coach. Lorig was Wells’ linebackers coach at Utah State in 2014 and then transitioned to safeties prior to the 2015 season.
Over his 22 seasons at the collegiate level, including eight as a defensive coordinator and five others overseeing special teams, Lorig has coached the likes of NFL All-Pro defensive lineman Jared Allen (Idaho State) as well as NFL signees Jeff Charleston (Idaho State), Deveron Carr (Arizona State), Robert Nelson (Arizona State), Nick Vigil (Utah State) and Zach Vigil (Utah State).
During his three seasons at Memphis, Lorig turned special teams into one of the Tigers’ biggest strengths, ranking among the top-five teams nationally in kick returns over his first two years. Memphis also ranked in the top 20 nationally each of Lorig’s three seasons for kick return defense, finishing as high as second in 2016.
The Tigers returned three kickoffs for a touchdown in Lorig’s debut season, snapping a drought of nearly 21 seasons that was believed to be the longest such streak in FBS history. Memphis ranked fifth nationally in kickoff return average in 2016 before finishing one spot higher in 2017.
Tony Pollard transformed into one of the nation’s top kick returners under Lorig’s watch with a school-record seven kickoffs returned for a touchdown already over his three-year career. Pollard’s final trip to the end zone came in the 2018 Birmingham Bowl, placing the junior in a tie with C.J. Spiller (Clemson, 2006-09), Tyron Carrier (Houston, 2008-11) and Rashaad Penny (San Diego State, 2014-17) for the most kickoff return touchdowns in FBS history.
Pollard, who also ranks among the FBS all-time leaders in kickoff return average, brought back four kickoffs for a touchdowns in 2017 alone en route to earning first team All-America honors by the likes of the Walter Camp Foundation, the Football Writers Association of America and Phil Steele. He was named the American Conference Special Teams Player of the Year for the second-consecutive year following the season.
Lorig also had success with his specialists as well, pushing kicker Jake Elliott to being named a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award in 2016 and punter Spencer Smith to All-American Conference first team accolades in 2017. The Tigers ranked 24th nationally in 2017 for punt return defense, allowing only 4.6 yards a return, and then finished eighth in the FBS for net punting in 2016.
Most impressively, Lorig’s units did not surrender a punt return or kickoff return for a touchdown during his three seasons overseeing the Tigers’ special teams. The 2018 season marked his 22nd year at the collegiate level and fifth overseeing special teams.
Lorig also mentored Memphis’ outside linebackers for a Tigers defense that became one of the nation’s most opportunistic units in the country. Memphis created 81 turnovers the past three seasons, which ranks fourth nationally among FBS programs. The Tigers closed the 2016 season ranked fifth nationally with 29 takeaways and third in 2017 with 31.
Prior to Memphis, Lorig helped Wells and his Utah State staff build a strong defense that helped push the Aggies to a 10-4 record and victory in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl in 2014. It matched the second-most wins in school history for the Aggies, who finished tied for second in the Mountain West Mountain Division the following year with a 5-3 league record for a trip to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
Lorig tutored a pair of All-Mountain West first team selections during his first season in Zach and Nick Vigil. Zach Vigil was named the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year and a USA Today second team All-American after recording 156 tackles, including 9.0 sacks and 20.5 tackles for a loss. He ranked seventh nationally in tackles per game (11.1) and 13th in tackles for loss per game (1.46).
Utah State was among the stingiest defenses in the country each of those two seasons as the Aggies ranked 11th in forced turnovers (30), 12th in scoring defense (19.7 points per game), 24th in rushing defense (130.7 yards per game) and 30th in total defense (356.1 yards per game) in 2014. The Aggies closed the 2015 season 11th in fumble recoveries (12), 13th in passing yards (180.5 yards per game) and 19th in total defense (332.5 yards per game).
Lorig, a native of Edmonds, Washington, arrived at Utah State following two seasons as the special teams coordinator and cornerbacks coach at Arizona State. Lorig had two specialists earn national honors over the course of the 2012-13 seasons as punter Josh Hubner collected All-America honors in 2012, while placekicker Zane Gonzlaez was named a Freshman All-American the following year.
Hubner averaged a school-record 47.1 yards per punt under Lorig in 2012, which led all Pac-12 punters and ranked second nationally. He was recognized following the season as a third team All-American by Lindy’s and an honorable mention selection by Sports Illustrated.
Gonzalez, meanwhile, led the Pac-12 and finished fifth nationally in field goals per game (1.8) during his debut season in 2013. Gonzalez drilled 25 field goals that season, tying the NCAA freshman record in the process. He also ranked 29th nationally in field goal percentage (.833).
In addition, Arizona State boasted one of the nation’s top passing defenses in 2012 as the Sun Devils allowed only 167.9 yards per game through the air, which ranked third in the FBS. Arizona State followed with 21 interceptions as a team in 2013, which ranked third nationally as well.
Lorig moved to Arizona State after spending four seasons as the assistant head coach and defensive coordinator at Central Washington (2008-11). The Wildcats posted a 34-12 record during that span, claiming three Great Northwest Athletic Conference crowns and two NCAA Division II playoff appearances.
Lorig, whose unit routinely ranked among the top-10 for total defense, was named the Division II Assistant Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) following the 2010 season. He was a finalist for the Division-II Coordinator of the Year award by FootballScoop.com in 2009.
Lorig’s coaching career began as the secondary coach at Western Oregon in 1997. He spent two seasons at his alma mater before accepting an assistant position at Idaho State, rising from cornerbacks (1999-00) and linebackers (2001-02) coach to defensive coordinator (2003-06) over his eight seasons. He also spent one season as the linebackers coach at UTEP (2007) prior to joining the Central Washington staff.
A two-time All-Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges honoree, Lorig began his collegiate playing career as a cornerback at Walla Walla Community College. He transferred to Western Oregon from there where he played two seasons and was a team captain.
Lorig earned his bachelor’s degree in law enforcement from Western Oregon in 1995 and then his master’s in correctional administration in 1997. Lorig and his wife, Becky, are parents to a son, Tyler, and two daughters, Jordan and Emma.
JOE LORIG COACHING EXPERIENCE
2019 – Texas Tech Assistant Coach (Special Teams/Defensive Position TBA)
2016-18 – Memphis Assistant Coach (Special Teams/Outside Linebackers)
2015 – Utah State Assistant Coach (Safeties)
2014 – Utah State Assistant Coach (Linebackers)
2012-13 – Arizona State Assistant Coach (Special Teams/Cornerbacks)
2008-11 – Central Washington Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator
2007 – UTEP Assistant Coach (Linebackers)
2003-06 – Idaho State Defensive Coordinator
2001-02 – Idaho State Assistant Coach (Linebackers)
1999-00 – Idaho State Assistant Coach (Cornerbacks)
1997-98 – Western Oregon Assistant Coach (Secondary)