Coach Mike Lembo has turned the Rice football special teams unit into the gold standard for special teams in college football.
Special teams coordinators around the nation need to focus their attention on South Main. The Rice Owls are the cream of the crop when it comes to special teams, and they’re just getting started. Through four games, Rice ranks ninth in kick return defense, 24th in punt return defense, fifth in net punting and 20th in kick returns.
The man behind the resurgence is special teams coordinator and associate head coach Pete Lembo. One of the new additions to the 2018 staff, Lembo’s impact cannot be understated. His focus on skills that translate from special teams to each individual players offensive or defensive position has created a synergy that drives the program forward.
Part of the success has come from the team’s commitment to the discipline of special teams. Head coach Mike Bloomgren dedicates a meaningful amount of practice time to the oft-forgotten unit. He’s expanded beyond punting and kicking to creative plays – like the successful 2-point conversion the Owls’ pulled off against Southern Miss.
“Coach Lembo is always going to spend the hours and time on task to make sure we have options,” said Mike Bloomgren. Whether it’s fakes, kickoffs, formations or different looks for the defense, Bloomgren has been staunch in his commitment to “stealing points” wherever he can.
That aggressiveness has led to a culture that focuses on finding the “hidden yardage” and maximizing every play. Lembo knows the early success is only a taste of what is to come, saying the team is “starting to understand how important [special teams] is and starting to understand what a difference it can make.”
Jack Fox and Austin Trammell are producing at a high level and the special teams unit continues to elevate the play of the entire team. If ranking in the top 25 in four different statistics is the start, the finish should be worth waiting for.