Pete Lembo is arguably the best special teams coach in the country and has the Gamecocks ranked as such. He does a fabulous job in getting the players to buy in to the importance of special teams play, and the results on the field have followed. He is charismatic and has quickly become a fan and media favorite with his ability to work pop culture and a love of history into his coaching, teaching and press availabilities. With his background as a former head coach, he is a tremendous sounding board for second-year head coach Shane Beamer. I’ve been doing this a long time (22 years) and I can’t remember ever submitting a candidate more worthy of the Broyles Award than Pete Lembo.
Pete Lembo has been in the coaching ranks since starting as a GA in 1992. He has been a head coach at Lehigh, Elon and Ball State, but has specialized as a special teams coordinator since 2017 at Maryland, Rice, Memphis and South Carolina. He was nominated for the Broyles Award in 2019 while at Memphis when the Tigers special teams ranked in the too-10 in six FBS statistical categories. His 2018 Rice special teams units ranked 17th in the country in the ESPN Team Efficiency Rankings after ranking 114th in the season prior to his arrival. At Ball State, he had a Ray Guy Award finalist in 2012 and the MAC Special Teams Player of the Year in 2014. Since Lembo’s arrival in South Carolina, the Gamecocks have blocked nine kicks in 22 games. They blocked just eight kicks over the previous five years combined. He holds a unique distinction in that he mentored the Detroit Lions punter and placekicker.
The Gamecocks are bowl-eligible for a second-straight season after winning just two games in 2020. The Gamecocks are 6-3 overall, 3-3 in the SEC. They defeated Texas A&M for the first time in school history (in 9 tries) and won at 13th-ranked Kentucky for the first time since 2014. The Gamecocks have won back-to-back SEC road games for the first time since 2012. The Gamecocks have won two road games in a season for the first time since 2018. After opening the season 1-2, including a loss to No. 1 Georgia, the Gamecocks have reeled off five wins in their last six games.
The Gamecocks currently rank first in the country in ESPN’s Special Teams Efficiency Rankings. In the national rankings, South Carolina is tied for second in blocked punts with a school record 5; tied for second in blocked kicks with 5; third in kickoff return average at 27.27; sixth in punt return average at 16.67; 12th in net punting at 41.97; 13th in opponent kick return average at 16.43; and 16th in opponent punt return average at 3.25. The Gamecocks are 3-for-3 in converting fake field goals (2-for-2) and punts (1-for-1). In addition, the Gamecocks have converted five 2-point conversions. Since coming to Carolina, the Gamecocks have been successful on 25-of-26 field goal attempts.