Struggles on special teams was a season theme for Penn State
Penn State has a new special teams coordinator less than a week after Phil Galiano’s departure.
Joe Lorig will take over the Nittany Lions’ special teams and serve as a defensive assistant, the program announced Thursday. Lorig, who was recently hired at Texas Tech, brings two decades of experience to the position.
“We are looking forward to having Joe join our staff,” Penn State head coach James Franklin said in a written statement. “We conducted a comprehensive study of special teams coordinators across the country to find the best fit for our staff and identified Joe as the best candidate. His special teams units have a history of being among the best in the country and we know he can continue that success here.”
Lorig was hired by new Red Raiders coach Matt Wells in January. Before that, he served as Memphis’ special teams coordinator for three seasons. In that time, Lorig’s special teams unit finished in the top five in college football in kick-return average twice and in the top 20 in kick-return defense every single year. The Tigers did not allow a kickoff or punt return touchdown under Lorig.
Prior to landing at Memphis, Lorig coached linebackers and safeties at Utah State in 2014 and 2015, respectively, and managed Arizona State’s special teams in 2012 and 2013. He’ll be valuable to Brent Pry, Sean Spencer, Terry Smith and Tim Banks on the defensive side of the ball after calling plays as Central Washington’s defensive coordinator for three years before breaking into FBS coaching.
Lorig also served on Larry Lewis’ staff at Idaho State alongside Franklin in 1999. Lewis is now a consultant for the Nittany Lions.
Lorig’s focus will be Penn State’s special teams, a unit that floundered in its one year under Galiano. In 2017, when Charles Huff still ran the special teams, Penn State ranked No. 16 nationally in punt-return average, No. 25 in net punting, No. 29 in punt defense and No. 39 in kick-return defense. All of those categories saw a significant drop-off in 2018.
Whether it was giving up a fake field goal touchdown against Iowa that the team apparently practiced the week before, or allowing onside kicks to be recovered early in the season, Galiano’s lone season at the helm was defined by mistakes.
The Citrus Bowl served as a microcosm of his tenure. Against Kentucky, the Nittany Lions failed on an early fake punt, allowed a punt return touchdown, missed two field goals and had a kickoff sail out of bounds. After the terrible display, Franklin echoed what fans had tweeted about.
“It was not up to our standards today,” Franklin said in Orlando, “and it was not up to our standards all year long.”
However, Franklin did not fire Galiano, which came as a surprise to many. Wide receivers coach David Corley was let go, but the special teams coordinator remained on Penn State’s staff. That is, until the NFL came calling.
Galiano bolted for a special teams assistant gig with the New Orleans Saints last week; unlike the departures of Huff, Josh Gattis and Joe Moorhead in recent years, many fans rejoiced over the move. Some called Galiano’s decision addition by subtraction.
That’s the kind of year Penn State’s special teams labored through in 2018.
Lorig faces a tall task. But he’s looking forward to the challenge.
“I am extremely excited to join the staff at Penn State University and begin working with such a storied program,” Lorig said in a written statement. “My wife, three children and I are very appreciative of the opportunity to join the Nittany Lion family, and we look forward to helping Penn State win championships.”