- position Associate Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator
- position Associate Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator
Pete Lembo is in his third season at South Carolina. He was named the Gamecocks’ associate head coach/special teams coordinator on Dec. 27, 2020.
In his first season with the Gamecocks, the Gamecocks blocked four kicks (three punts and a field goal), tied for second in the SEC and tied for 10th in the country. The last time Carolina blocked four or more kicks in a season came in 2014. The three blocked punts tied for the SEC lead, tied for seventh in the nation and are the most since blocking three in 2000. The Gamecocks did not surrender a blocked kick. The last time that occurred was in 2017. South Carolina averaged 24.0 yards per kick return, the school’s second-best mark since joining the SEC in 1992 (25.8 in 2016). South Carolina’s kickoff return defense allowed just 18.2-yards per return, the school’s best mark since 1998 (16.1) and the third-best mark since joining the SEC in 1992 (15.6 in 1997). Juju McDowell earned a spot on the Freshman All-SEC team as a return specialist.
Under Lembo’s tutelage, the Gamecock special teams had arguably their best season on record in 2022. Carolina boasted the nation’s top-ranked special teams unit, earning the No. 1 spot in ESPN’s special teams efficiency ranking. Carolina ranked fourth in the country in punt returns (16.6), fifth in kickoff returns (25.1), seventh in net punting (42.8), 23rd in opponent kickoff returns (17.3) and 27th in opponent punt returns (4.6). The Gamecocks tied for third in the country with six blocked kicks and tied for second with five blocked punts. Carolina scored five special teams touchdowns – two blocked punt returns, one kick return, one fake punt and one fake field goal. Junior punter Kai Kroeger was an All-American and first-team All-SEC selection. Long snapper Hunter Rogers earned second-team All-SEC honors. Placekicker Mitch Jeter was a perfect 11-for-11 in field goal attempts, including a pair of 50-plus yarders. Jeter and Eddie Leopard (12-for-12 in 1980) are the only kickers in school history to make all of their field goal attempts in a season with a minimum of 10 attempts.
Following that successful campaign, Lembo was named a Broyles Award Assistant Coach of the Year Semifinalist, a FootballScoop Special Teams Coach of the Year Finalist and Phil Steele’s Special Teams Coach of the Year accolades.
Lembo came to Carolina after two seasons as the assistant head coach and special teams coordinator at Memphis. Nominated for the Broyles Award, the 2019 Tigers special teams ranked in the top-10 in six NCAA/FBS statistical categories: kick-return yards (2nd), kick-return TD (2nd), blocked kicks (6th), blocked punts (6th), kickoff touchbacks (6th) and kick returns (9th). He also was one of three finalists for FootballScoop.com’s Special Teams Coordinator of the Year honor.
“Pete brings a tremendous amount of experience to our staff, has coached on many levels and has been a head coach,” noted Coach Beamer. “His football IQ is outstanding, especially in special teams. He was a successful head coach and as a special teams coordinator, his units contributed greatly to the team’s overall success.”
Before arriving in the Bluff City, Lembo’s special teams were ranked among the nation’s best at Rice (2018) and Maryland (2016-17). At Maryland, he also served as the assistant head coach and tight ends coach.
His 2018 Rice special teams ranked fifth in the FBS with just 16.12 kickoff return yards allowed and 15th with 24.41 kickoff return yards per game. As a unit, Rice’s special teams ranked 17th in the country in the ESPN Team Efficiency Rankings (60.8 percent), after coming in at 114th the season before Lembo’s arrival.
In his time at Maryland, Lembo’s special teams ranked as some of the best in the country. In two seasons the Terps tied for fifth nationally with nine blocked kicks.
Lembo spent five seasons as the head coach at Ball State (2011-15). During his tenure, the Cardinals set more than 60 school records, including season marks for points (501), total offense (6,199 yards), passing yards (4,214), TD passes (35) and total TD (64) in 2013.
His Ball State special teams also ranked among the top of the Mid-American Conference (MAC) in each of his five seasons. Kicker Steve Schott was a Lou Groza Award semifinalist, and punter Scott Kovanda was a 2012 Ray Guy Award finalist. In 2014, kicker Scott Secor was named the MAC Special Teams Player of the Year.
In five seasons, Lembo posted a mark of 33-29, improving his career coaching mark to 112-65 in 15 seasons. He was the first head coach in Ball State history to win at least 30 games in his first four seasons. Lembo guided the Cardinals to a 9-4 record and an appearance in the 2012 Beef O’Brady’s Bowl and a 10-3 mark and a 2013 GoDaddy Bowl appearance. It was just the second time in the Cardinals’ 91-year history the program went to bowl games in consecutive seasons.
He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Albany (1992-93), and then spent three seasons as an assistant coach at Dartmouth (1994-96) and a season at Hampden-Sydney (1997) before joining the staff at Lehigh in 1998. There, Lembo started as an assistant coach before being named the head coach in 2001. In five seasons at the helm, he posted a 44-14 mark, leading Lehigh to the 2001 and 2004 Patriot League crowns and FCS playoff berths. His .759 overall winning percentage and .778 league winning percentage are the second-highest in Patriot League history. He was named the Eddie Robinson National Coach of the Year and Patriot League Coach of the Year in 2001 when his team finished 11-1 and ranked fifth in both NCAA Division I-AA polls.
In 2006, Lembo took over the Elon program. Over the next five years, Lembo led the Phoenix to 35 wins, more than doubling their win total from the previous five years (14). Lembo’s Elon teams broke 124 NCAA, Southern Conference (SoCon) and school records and sported a 24-14 record in SoCon play. He was named the SoCon Coach of the Year in 2007.
Lembo, a 1992 graduate of Georgetown University, was a four-year starter on the Hoyas’ offensive line and served as team captain in 1991. A native of Staten Island, N.Y., Lembo is married to the former Jenifer Kochis. The couple has three children: Sophia, A.J. and Victoria.
THE PETE LEMBO FILE
• Hometown: Staten Island, N.Y.
• High School: Monsignor Farrell (N.Y.) HS, ’87
• College: Georgetown, ’92 & Albany, ’94
• Wife: Jenifer
• Children: daughters Sophia and Victoria; son A.J.
PLAYING CAREER (OFFENSIVE LINE)
• Georgetown (1988-91)
• 1992-93: Albany (Graduate Assistant)
• 1994-96: Dartmouth (Assistant Coach)
• 1997: Hampden-Sydney College (Assistant Coach)
• 1998-2000: Lehigh (Assistant Coach)
• 2001-05: Lehigh (Head Coach)
• 2006-10: Elon (Head Coach)
• 2011-15: Ball State (Head Coach)
• 2016-17: Maryland (Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator/Tight Ends)
• 2018: Rice (Associate Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator)
• 2019-20: Memphis (Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator)
• 2021-23: South Carolina (Associate Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator)