Chattanooga hires former Gamecock defensive coordinator

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football head coach Rusty Wright announced the Mocs defensive coordinator today.  Lorenzo Ward is making his second stop in the Scenic City after spending the 2018 season as the Interim Head Coach at Louisville.

A 22-year coaching veteran at the FBS level, Ward has six years of experience as a defensive coordinator, including four in the Southeastern Conference at South Carolina (2012-15).

“I have known Coach Ward for a long time and he is an outstanding addition to our program,” stated Wright.  “He was on the staff when I played here and has coached at the highest levels throughout his career.  He wants to be here and we are very fortunate to have him.”

Ward joined the Cardinal staff in 2017, where he tutored Jaire Alexander, a 2018 first-round pick of the Green Bay Packers. Despite playing in six games due to injury, Ward’s influence helped Alexander become the school’s first first-round selection since 2014.

Ward served one season as Fresno State’s defensive coordinator (2016) following a seven-year stint at South Carolina under legendary coach Steve Spurrier (2009-15).

A successful defensive mind, Ward has a proven track record of developing NFL talent. He has coached 16 defensive backs that were drafted into the NFL, including first-round picks Stephon Gilmore (2012, No. 10 overall) at South Carolina and DeAngelo Hall (2004, No. 8 overall) from Virginia Tech.

As the defensive coordinator at South Carolina, Ward guided a unit that finished in the top 25 nationally in both scoring and total defense in four of his seven seasons, including a scoring defense that finished 12th in 2013, second in the SEC.

South Carolina ranked 11th in the country in 2012, giving up just 315.5 total yards per game.  They were 13th in scoring defense, allowing just 18.2 points per game. The 2013 campaign saw the Gamecocks rank 12th nationally in scoring defense (20.3).

His best Gamecocks defense came in 2011 when USC ranked No. 3 in the country in total defense.  They allowed just 267.7 yards per game, and No. 11 in scoring defense at 18.4 points per game.

During his tenure at South Carolina, Ward tutored eight first-team All-SEC selections and six All-Americans, including Jadeveon Clowney, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Clowney became just the third Gamecock to earn first-team All-America honors in two seasons, was the 2011 SEC Freshman of the Year and won the 2012 Ted Hendricks Award given to college football’s top defensive end.

Clowney was one of 12 defensive players coached by Ward at South Carolina drafted into the NFL, with Gilmore and linebacker Melvin Ingram also being first-round picks.

Ward built a reputation as one of the top secondary coaches in the nation during his seven seasons (1999-05) on Frank Beamer’s staff at Virginia Tech. There, he saw five of his players earn all-BIG EAST honors and one made the all-ACC squad following the school’s transition from conferences late in his tenure in Blacksburg.

In his final season at Virginia Tech, the Hokies led the nation in total defense, giving up just 247.6 yards per game, were second in pass efficiency defense, and third in pass defense. The year prior, in 2004, Virginia Tech was fourth in the country in both pass defense and interceptions.

His 2002 secondary unit, led by future NFL Draft picks Willie Pile and DeAngelo Hall, led the nation in interceptions with 24 combined. Two years earlier in 2000, Pile’s six interceptions helped Virginia Tech rank No. 2 in the country with 23.

Ward also has amassed coaching experience at Arkansas (2008), one year in the NFL (2006) with the Oakland Raiders on Art Shell’s staff, and five years as an assistant coach at Chattanooga (1994-98).

He started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at his alma mater Alabama in 1991. Ward played for the Crimson Tide from 1986-89, helping them go 33-15 in his career with an SEC title in 1989. The Sporting News named him the Special Teams Player of the Year following his senior season.

Ward earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education from Alabama in 1991.  He and his wife, Tara, have one son, Lorenzo Jr.

Categories: Local Sports, Sports, USC Gamecocks