Lewis named special-teams coach at UVa.
Virginia head football coach Mike London announced on Saturday the hiring of long-time college coach Larry Lewis as the Cavaliers’ special teams coordinator and running backs coach. Lewis replaces Jeff Banks, who joined the UVa staff on Jan. 1 before resigning last week to pursue another coaching opportunity.
Lewis has 32 years of collegiate coaching experience, including an eight-year stint as the head coach at Idaho State. Lewis first started coaching special teams when he was an assistant on Mike Price’s Weber State staff in 1981 and became one of the first college coaches to hold the title of special teams coordinator when he took on that role for Price’s Washington State teams in the 1990s.
“Larry Lewis has probably been coaching special teams for as long as anyone in college football and we’re really fortunate to have him join our staff,” London said. “On the offensive side of the ball, he has worked for some very successful and innovative coaches out west and coached two of the nation’s top running backs over the past two seasons. Larry is high energy and our players are going to enjoy his style. It is ironic that Jeff Banks played for Larry at Washington State. I guess you could say we’ve gone from the pupil to the teacher.”
Lewis comes to Virginia after working for Hall of Fame coach Chris Ault at Nevada in 2012. Ault announced his retirement in late December. Lewis served as the Wolfpack’s special teams coordinator and running backs coach. Nevada averaged 271 rushing yards per game last season, the seventh-best average among FBS programs.
In his one season at Nevada, Lewis coached junior All-America running back Stefphon Jefferson, who rushed for 1,883 yards and 24 touchdowns. Both of those totals ranked second among FBS players in 2012. Jefferson was one of 10 semifinalists for the Doak Walker Award, presented to the nation’s top running back.
Jefferson’s rushing yardage and touchdown totals set Nevada and Mountain West Conference single-season records. He broke Colin Kaepernick’s single-season rushing touchdown mark at Nevada.
The Wolfpack’s special teams also showed improvement under Lewis. Nevada’s Khalid Wooten led the Mountain West Conference and finished fourth in the nation in punt return average at 15.1yards per return. Brock Kendall was sixth in MWC in kickoff returns at 23.4 yards per runback. Place kicker Allen Hardison converted nine of 10 field goal attempts and made 56 of 57 PATs. Chase Tenpenny averaged 43.3 yards per punt on 46 attempts. Wooten was a second-team all-conference selection, while Hardison earned honorable mention honors.
Lewis coached at Colorado State for four seasons before joining the staff at Nevada. After coaching the Rams’ special teams and safeties for three seasons, he was promoted to associate head coach prior to the 2011 campaign and given the responsibility of coaching running backs and fullbacks, in addition to special teams.
At Colorado State in 2011, Lewis guided the Rams to top 25 rankings in punting and kick returns. As the Rams’ running backs coach, he tutored Chris Nwoke, who was third in the Mountain West in rushing at nearly 95 yards per game. Lewis also had the No. 19 kick return unit in 2010 and the top punter in the Mountain West in 2008.
Lewis has produced a number of NFL players in his career, perhaps most notably All-Pro defensive end Jared Allen, who was the nation’s top defensive player in I-AA (FCS) in 2003 at Idaho State.
As the Bengals’ head coach from 1999-2006, Lewis guided Idaho State to a share of the 2002 Big Sky Conference title and the school’s first of consecutive eight-win seasons, in 2002 and 2003, in the program’s 101-year history. For a stretch from 2001-04, Idaho State was ranked in 22 of 23 national polls. His Bengals’ teams produced 13 All-Americans, 127 all-conference selections and 41 academic all-conference awards.
Lewis was a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year in 2002, when Idaho State notched its best record in 21 years and captured a share of its first Big Sky title in more than two decades.
That season, the Bengals had 14 first- and second-team all-conference players; they had just one only three years earlier, in 1999. The Bengals closed the year No. 16 in the national polls.
Prior to his tenure at ISU, Lewis spent 10 years at Washington State, where he served as defensive ends coach (1989-94) and assistant head coach/special teams coordinator (1995-98). During that period, WSU experienced unprecedented success and his linemen helped the school post the nation’s No. 2 defense against the run in both 1993 and 1994.
The Cougars went to three bowl games, including the Rose Bowl at the end of a 10-1 season in 1997. In that contest, WSU nearly upset eventual national champion Michigan. It was Washington State’s first Rose Bowl appearance in 67 years.
From 1981-88, Lewis coached at Weber State, where he began as a part-time assistant. Promoted to full-time status by head coach Mike Price prior to the 1983 season, Lewis coached outside linebackers from 1981-85, then wore two caps as recruiting coordinator and defensive line coach from 1986-88. In 1987, the Wildcats enjoyed what remains the best season in program annals, a 10-3 campaign that saw them advance to the national Division I-AA quarterfinals and capture a share of the Big Sky Conference championship. In 1981, his first year at the school, the 7-4 team snapped a string of 10 losing seasons.
Lewis began coaching after a stellar playing career at Boise State, where he lettered four times. After redshirting in 1976, he was the team’s most improved player as a freshman. As a starter at outside linebacker, he helped the Broncos win the 1980 NCAA Division I-AA national championship, on the heels of a 10-1 season in 1979 and a Big Sky championship in 1977.
During his professional tenure he has coached in the Copper, Alamo, Rose and New Mexico (twice) bowls and in the Division I-AA championships twice.
The 55-year-old Lewis is a native of Vale, Ore. He graduated from Boise State in 1981 with a degree in physical education. He and his wife, Lisa, have a daughter named Hanna.
• The initial appointment for Larry Lewis is for two years. He will receive an annual salary of $220,000.