Q&A with Coach Joe Lorig

With just one week of fall camp several team story lines are developed and that includes the special teams group. Devils Digest talked to its unit coach, Joe Lorig, on how this group is fairing and the challenges it faces.

Devils Digest: Special teams were a bag of mixed goods last year. With one week of fall camp in the books do you feel that all areas in special teams are doing as well as you wanted them to be at this point of camp?

Joe Lorig: "I don't know if they are doing as well as I wanted them to be because I have high expectations but we are working towards that. I am pleased with our progress at this point."

Devils Digest: Josh Hubner at punter had a solid 2011 season, and judging by his camp performance so far looks like he's poised for a good senior season. How would you evaluate his performance this last week?

Joe Lorig: "I think Josh has been great. He has a big-time leg and looking forward to a big year for us. He should be an All Pac-12 type of selection."

Devils Digest: Kicker Alex Garoutte not only had a rough season, but did struggle in the spring as well. Do you feel that he has made the improvement you wanted him to make at this point of the year?

Joe Lorig: "I wouldn't agree that he struggled in spring. We were making some tweaks to some of his techniques. He has had a great camp as well and we are really excited about him. We have a couple other guys that are pushing him and I think that competition really helps him to bring out the best in people."

Devils Digest: Last year, Garoutte wasn't really pushed by any of his backups, and now in camp you have Jon Mora and Dillon Jackson, both walk-on kickers, who are perhaps some of the biggest surprises in camp. Can you talk about their camp performance and how much they are actually pushing Garoutte?

Joe Lorig: "It's a good time to ask that because we just had a game-winning field goal competition tonight and Alex (Garoutte) missed his, Dillon missed his, and Jon Mora stepped up and hit a 44-yard field goal for the win. Those guys have done a great job and are very capable, and it will be a battle down to the very end to see who our kick off guy is and who our field goal guy is."

Devils Digest: True freshmen tend to generally struggle more often than they succeed in their first year, and long snapper Easton Wahlstrom was inconsistent in the spring and had some issues in camp so far. How much is that position a concern right now?

Joe Lorig: "It is a concern right now. Easton is well aware that the expectations are very high and that there is no room for error in that position. He has struggled at times but we are working on it. He spends a lot of extra time working and is committed to being the best he can be and we have 20 days to get him ready."

Devils Digest: Are you looking to possibly bringing any walk-ons for the long snapper position?

Joe Lorig: "No, not at this point."

Devils Digest: As far as short snapping is concerned looks like you experimented with Josh Hubner and now Mo Latu. Where do things stand right now in this area and do you feel Wahlstrom can still be the answer here or would you just have him concentrate on long snapping?

Joe Lorig: "Wahlstrom is going to focus on long snapping. We are going to have Josh Hubner as short snapper. He (Hubner) has a lot of time during practice to work with Alex (Garoutte) and that's who Alex said he wants to be the snapper and Hubner is very capable.

"We want our kickers to feel comfortable with the snapper. Josh said he could try it out and he is very capable and talented and gets the ball back there. So right now it looks like it is going to be Josh."

Devils Digest: Coverage teams are something that doesn't get a lot of discussion when it comes to special teams, but how do you feel the team is looking right now at both kickoff and punt coverage?

Joe Lorig: "I'm excited about that. I think that a big part of that is putting your best players on special teams which Coach Graham is very committed to. Also with your kicker and punter and the hang time they can get for your coverage teams is very critical. Both our kicker and punter are having great fall camps so we are very excited about it."

Devils Digest: You have a lot weapons to choose at both punt and kick return, but having such an accomplished player like Jamal Miles probably make the selection that much easier. What makes him such a gifted special teams player?

Joe Lorig: "He really believes in himself. He really believes that he can take it to the house every single time and obviously he has done that many times so that's a big part of it. The other part of it is that the rest of the team knows how dynamic he is and when you have a guy back there that whenever he touches the ball you could score a touchdown and change the game. I think it gives people just that little bit of extra edge to believe in what we are doing."

Devils Digest: What are your goals for special teams as you progress through fall camp?

Joe Lorig: "Our goal is to be the best in the Pac-12 first in all the areas and then to be the first in the nation. Just like our team goals we want to win the National Championship and you don't do that without a strong special teams."

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