LOGAN, Utah – When Utah State football takes the field this fall, there will be a few new faces among the coaching staff. Among those newcomers is Joe Lorig who has taken his place at the helm of the linebacker corps.
Lorig joins the Aggie family with 17 years of coaching experience, including eight years as a defensive coordinator and two years as a special teams coordinator. Most recently, he was the special teams coordinator and cornerbacks coach at Arizona State.
Two weeks into spring practice, we sat down with Lorig to discuss his first month on the job and the expectations he has for this team.
<strong>You’ve been in Logan for a month now, talk about how the transition has gone.</strong>
“Everything is going really well. I really enjoy the staff and we have a great group of players. I’m looking forward to getting my family here. It’s different than Tempe, but I’ve lived lots of different places and every place is what you make it. This is a great place to be.”
<strong>Some fans may wonder why you left a Pac-12 school in Arizona State to come to Utah State. Can you shed some light on why you decided to come to USU?</strong>
“It was really the type of program that Coach (Matt) Wells runs. It’s very family-oriented and I have three kids. It was very important to me to be able to spend more time with my kids. I love the area. I met my wife in Pocatello, Idaho and we really like it here. I was just ready for a change. The logo on my chest isn’t what defines me. This (Utah State) is a logo to be very proud of. I don’t get caught up in Pac-12 or Mountain West. I wanted to work with a great group of guys and a winning program. I really believe in the things Coach Wells is doing here.”
<strong>What has impressed you the most about Utah State football since joining the staff?</strong>
“The quality of the players. This is a group that you can tell has won a lot of football games and they expect to win. That’s very similar to what we were developing at Arizona State before I left. We’d won 18 games in two years and played for the Pac-12 Championship last year. That’s really something that’s hard to build. It’s nice to come here and see that in place. These kids expect to win and are hard-working. They have tremendous character, so that’s been the most impressive thing so far.”
<strong>What impresses you the most about Coach Wells as he enters his second season leading Utah State Football?</strong>
“A lot of head coaches talk about certain things, but they don’t necessarily live them and do them. Matt is truly about character. He is about relationships with players and coaches. He really cares about the people in his program. He’s very genuine. I did a lot of research on Matt and the other coaches and what this program is all about, and that’s why I came here. I know what he’s about and it fits who I am.”
<strong>Talk about how spring practice has gone for you and what you have seen from your linebackers group?</strong>
“We’re feeling great. It’s a little chilly when we’re outside practicing at 6 in the morning, I’m not used to that. It’s hard for me to know if we’re good or not good because I don’t really know the conference yet. In the spring you don’t really worry about anyone else anyway, you just worry about yourself. I’m impressed with my players so far, but my expectations are very high, so there’s lots of room for improvement.”
<strong>What has impressed you most about Utah State’s linebackers from what you have seen on film from last year and in spring practice? Who is standing out to you at this point?</strong>
“We lost a tremendous player in Jake Doughty. He brought a lot to the table from an intelligence and character standpoint. Those are big shoes to fill there, but I feel really good about Zach Vigil, Nick Vigil and Kyler Fackrell. They’re going to be a tremendous tandem. They need to stay humble and hungry. There’s lots of room for improvement, but they are very good players. We need to develop some more depth at that position, so there are other guys like La’Bradford Harold, Chase Christiansen and Jarom Baldomero that need to continue to get better so they can be role players for us. You can’t go through a season with just a couple of guys. If you’re going to go on a championship run and win 13 or 14 games, you’ve got to have four or five guys who can play.”
<strong>What things are the linebackers working on and trying to improve on during spring practice?</strong>
“Just fundamentals, which isn’t any different anywhere you go. With spring football you’re just trying to work on specific technique, footwork, tackling, creating turnovers and making sure you’re hustling to the ball. My little saying is ‘humble and hungry,’ so just all the techniques and fundamentals of the position specifically.”
<strong>Do you see your linebackers group being the leaders of USU’s defense in 2014?</strong>
“I don’t give them a choice, we’re going to be leaders. Some guys lead by example and some are vocal leaders. Zach Vigil is definitely a vocal leader. When you’re a guy who has played in as many games as he has and has been as successful as he has, people will listen. I don’t need to encourage him, he’s already a vocal leader. Some of the other guys lead by example. There are lots of different types of leaders. You can’t make someone be something that they’re not naturally. I just try to help them become leaders within whatever their personality style is. My expectations are very high. We will be leaders of this defense. We’ll for sure be the hardest working group on the field, but we’ll be one of the better groups in my opinion.”
<strong>What can Aggie fans expect from a Joe Lorig coached linebackers group?</strong>
“They’ll see kids that have character both on and off the field. That’s very important to me and it’s something that’s not an issue here. They’ll see guys who are going to play hard and represent the game the way it’s supposed to be represented. We’re going to go out and do our job. We have high expectations to win, so we’ll do our job and then go home.”
<strong>What is in store for Utah State’s defense in 2014? Do you as defensive coaches expect them to perform to the level they have the past two seasons?</strong>
“I don’t know why the expectations would be any different than what they’ve been here. We’ve been one of the top 10 defenses in the country the last few years, so the expectation is to be the same or better. The expectation is that you want to improve every year and I don’t see any reason why we can’t. My expectation is that we’ll be better than we have been.”
<strong>Can you speak to how people outside of the Utah State football program, players and coaches alike, view Aggie football with the turnaround it has had in the last three years?</strong>
“Oh absolutely, and that’s a huge part of why I came here. The brand is much different than it was before. I’ve coached in this stadium twice and have had lots of friends who have worked here. Utah State football is not what it used to be. It’s not what it was five or 10 years ago, it’s a lot different. People are talking about it. That Northern Illinois game surprised a lot of people with them having such a highly-regarded quarterback. Utah State played in the stadium two days before Arizona State, so we specifically watched them as we were staying in the same city. Coach Wells has a very good reputation with a lot of people. Utah State is on the map and we need to continue to rise and be more on the map with more national exposure. That will help with recruiting, it helps the university and every aspect of the football program.”
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