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Key quotes from Oregon special teams coordinator Joe Lorig, with context

6 min read
Key quotes from Oregon special teams coordinator Joe Lorig, with context

Oregon special teams and nickels coach Joe Lorig met with reporters for the first time this spring and discussed a number of key topics regarding his positions groups.

Here are a handful of key quotes from Lorig’s Tuesday interview, with a bit of added context.

Key quotes from Joe Lorig’s Thursday media availability

Q: How frustrating was (Oregon’s special teams’ performance) last season for you?

Lorig: “I don’t know if I’d say frustrating. I’m always looking at evaluating how things are going and you really can’t ride the highs or lows of things. You’ve just got to look every week and especially the way we operate, it’s a new week every Sunday. Whether you played bad or good, it doesn’t matter. You’ve just got to get ready to do it all over again and put the best plan possible together for the players.

Context: Oregon entered last season with expectations of vastly improving its special teams’ performance in all facets after the Ducks struggled in that regard during the 2022 campaign.

But the Ducks performed even worse in a few key statistical categories during Lorig’s first year with the program.

Oregon ranked 125th out of 131 FBS teams in kickoff return defense and yielded 25.2 yards per return. Only Colorado ranked worse among Pac-12 schools.

In terms of net punting, the Ducks ranked 117th nationally.

Q: How is the punting competition going?

Lorig: “We’ve got a couple of guys out there competing, and we’re probably going to add another guy. Especially in the new era of college football, you’re always looking to add pieces if you can that can help you.

Context: It’s a bit surprising that Lorig said the Ducks intend to add another punter.

During the offseason, they signed Luke Dunne, a Pro Kick Australia standout, and thought so highly of him that they put him on scholarship. They also return redshirt sophomore Ross James, who had an up-and-down 2022 season.

Andrew Boyle, who served as Oregon’s kickoff specialist last year, made a cameo as the Ducks’ No. 1 punter late in the year after James and Barry struggled to find their footing.

But, as Lorig noted later in his interview, Dunne has never punted in an American football game. For all the talent he possesses, the freshman is still an unknown commodity at the college level.

In that sense, it makes sense that Oregon might look to add a veteran punter to shore up the depth at the position.

Q: How has Luke Dunne looked so far this spring?

Lorig: “I think he’s done a good job since he’s gotten here. It’s actually been a really close competition with him and (Ross James). He’s learning everything new. When he got off the plane, it was the first time he’d been in the U.S., so he thought people were on the wrong side of the road when they were steering. There’s a lot to learn for sure, but that’s the advantage of getting them here in the spring. You get them for all of the spring and they get the next four months before we get to fall camp. I’m very pleased with him.

“I don’t know if you guys have seen him, but he’s like 6-foot-5 and has a really big leg. It’ll just be how far can he mature and be able to handle the pressures of punting in a packed Autzen Stadium. That’s really the difference for those guys, and you don’t really know that until you get them in that situation.

Context: During the open portions of Oregon’s spring practices, Dunne’s leg strength has stood out.

It’s clear that there are still some aspects of his game that need fine-tuning, and there are days where Ross James has looked like the better overall punter.

But it’s easy to see why Lorig and the coaching staff opted to sign Dunne. He’s the most talented punter to come through the program since Tom Snee.

Q: What is the ideal number of specialists to carry on a college football roster?

Lorig: “You’re going to carry nine, if you do it right. You should carry three punters, three snappers, and three kickers. That’s been my modus operandi forever. It doesn’t always work out that way. It depends upon what the head coach wants, and those sorts of things, but generally speaking, you want three of each. It helps if one of them is a combo guy.

Context: Last season, the Ducks carried two long snappers, three kickers, and three punters.

At the moment, they feature three kickers, three long snappers, and two punters. Andrew Boyle, in theory, could serve as the “combo guy” that Lorig is referencing.

Because Boyle has been injured this spring, it’s hard to know exactly how Oregon plans to utilize him. But Lorig mentioned on Tuesday that Boyle is “really good” as a kickoff specialist.

Q: What makes Tysheem Johnson a good fit at nickle for you guys?

Lorig: “He’s got a ton of experience. A lot of experience, I think, would be the main thing. He’s just got a dog about him. He’s a really tenacious player. If you watch practice for like two minutes, you’ll see it. He’s a very explosive, smart, headsy type of kid. I think bringing that experience will be really helpful for him.

Context: For all the versatility that Oregon possesses in the secondary, it’s apparent at this point that Tysheem Johnson will almost certainly be the Ducks’ starting nickel in 2023.

Johnson, who transferred in from Ole Miss during the offseason, carries a reputation as a high-IQ, hard-hitting player.

With Bennett Williams having exhausted his eligibility, and Jamal Hill making the move to linebacker, Johnson’s veteran presence could be crucial for Oregon next fall.

Q: Is Tez Johnson capable of returning both punts and kicks?

Lorig: “I think he’s special at both. I really do. He’s definitely right in the mix for both of those spots. I think we have multiple guys. In (the Holiday Bowl) both (Bucky Irving) and (Noah Whittington) showed a spark we hadn’t seen during the season. I think as much as everything, I’ve got to do a better job making sure that the right guys are in the right spots.

It’s not an excuse, but when you don’t know how guys are going to do in games, it’s sometimes harder to get them in the right spots. Looking back, maybe I should’ve had Bucky at kick returner more last season. We evaluate everything, certainly, and I think we have plenty of tools to be successful.”

Context: In three seasons at Troy, Tez Johnson returned 23 for punts for 174 yards. His lone kickoff attempt during his three-year career came in 2020, when he returned one kick for 12 yards.

Johnson is an electric athlete; teammates and coaches have raved about his speed since he arrived in Eugene. But from a sheer game reps standpoint, he is a much more experienced punt returner than kick returner.

Throughout the spring, Johnson, Kris Hutson, Troy Franklin, and Cole Martin have taken punt return reps during the first period of practice.

The Ducks’ group of kick returners has consisted of running backs, Bucky Irving, Noah Whittington, Jordan James, and Jayden Limar.

It will be intriguing to see how Lorig goes about utilizing the Ducks’ playmakers in the return game. Last year, Hutson led the Ducks with 238 kick return yards and 42 punt return yards.

The post Key quotes from Oregon special teams coordinator Joe Lorig, with context appeared first on On3.

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