Fresno State named former South Carolina assistant Lorenzo Ward (right) its defensive coordinator on Jan. 12. (Gerry Melendez/The State/MCT)
Consecutive losing seasons have forced Fresno State head football coach Tim DeRuyter to make some coaching changes.
After hiring Alabama assistant Eric Kiesau to direct the offense, DeRuyter continued to shake up his coaching staff, this time on the defensive side by hiring Lorenzo Ward to replace Nick Toth as the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator.
Ward spent the last seven seasons at the University of South Carolina where he started as the Gamecocks’ defensive backs coach and worked his way up to defensive coordinator.
The 48-year-old coach was not retained by new South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp, which made him an available coaching target for the Bulldogs.
“We are very happy to be adding a coach with Lorenzo’s experience to our football staff,” DeRuyter said in a statement. “Lorenzo has a great passion for this game and mentoring young men. He has a wealth of experience having been a coordinator in the SEC as well as having coached in the NFL.
“His experience will greatly benefit our team, and I know that he is excited about becoming a Bulldog as we return to competing for championships in 2016.”
In Ward’s debut season as South Carolina’s defensive coordinator in 2011, the Gamecocks finished the season as the country’s third-highest-rated defense – surrendering just 268 yards and 18.4 points per game.
Ward’s unit had similar success the following year, when it ranked in the Top 25 nationally in four categories – 11th in total defense, 13th in scoring defense, 17th in rushing defense and 21st in passing defense.
Prior to his seven-year stint at South Carolina, Ward’s coaching history includes stops at his alma mater Alabama (1991, 1993), Virginia Tech (1999-2005), the Oakland Raiders (2007) and Arkansas (2008).
A dozen players who played in Ward’s system at South Carolina went on to be NFL Draft picks, including notable Day 1 selections like defensive back Stephon Gilmore, who was a Top 10 pick of the Buffalo Bills in 2012, and Jadeveon Clowney, who was drafted No. 1 overall in the 2014 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans.
Ward’s history of helping players get to the league also dates back to his time at Virginia Tech, where he coached current Washington Redskins and former Virginia Tech cornerback DeAngelo Hall, who was picked No. 8 overall in 2004.
On the day the hiring was made, the Pro Bowl corner went on social media to praise his former coach.
“Congrats to you guys,” Hall tweeted to the Fresno State football Twitter page. “You’re getting a world-class coach who will help mold young boys into great men.”