Texas longhorns defensive coordinator Todd Orlando before an NCAA football game against Baylor Bears in Waco, Texas on Saturday, November 23, 2019. [RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

Football

Former Texas defensive coordinator Todd Orlando rejoining Matt Wells at Texas Tech

Orlando, Wells both had success at Utah State; Texas safeties coach Craig Naivar said he will not be retained

Posted January 8th, 2020

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It’s still a “run-and-hit” business, only now Todd Orlando will be sending blitzing linebackers from Marsha Sharp Freeway instead of MoPac.

The former Texas defensive coordinator was named Texas Tech’s new assistant head coach and linebackers coach on Wednesday by Red Raiders coach Matt Wells.

It’s a reunion of sorts for Orlando and Wells, as they worked together at Utah State in 2013-14. That job propelled Orlando to Houston, where he paired up with Tom Herman for two years before they both came to Texas in 2017.

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“My family and I are excited to rejoin coach Wells,” Orlando said in a statement. “We’ve won a bunch of games together in the past, and we plan to do the same here at Texas Tech.”

Texas head coach Tom Herman, right, and defensive coordinator Todd Orlando watch their players against Kansas during an NCAA football game on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, in Austin, Texas. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

Herman fired Orlando at Texas on Dec. 1 after an 8-5 season went sideways for a myriad of reasons. The Longhorns had all sorts of injuries in the secondary and generated no consistent pass rush from a three-man front.

Orlando had one year left on his Texas contract worth $1.7 million. Athletic director Chris Del Conte said Wednesday that Orlando’s deal had a mitigation clause. Whatever Texas Tech doesn’t pay Orlando, Texas will make up the difference to reach the full $1.7 million.

Details of Orlando’s new Tech contract were not immediately available.

“We are thrilled to bring a coach with Todd’s credentials into our program,” Wells said in a statement. “He is one of the top defensive minds in football, and I know he will help us continue to build a strong culture within our program.”

Orlando, who loves to blitz with abandon, retooled a defense that was second in the Big 12 in sacks in 2017. But the unit had several fourth-quarter meltdowns in 2018, including one at Texas Tech that season, and slumped even more in 2019.

The Longhorns finished the season allowing 431.5 yards per game, the third-worst total in school history. Orlando’s penchant for the all-out blitz got the unit in trouble at times, most notably on a critical third-and-17 against LSU when Joe Burrow threw a game-clinching touchdown pass.

Orlando consistently preached the importance of staying the course. “To me, it’s about staying in routine,” Orlando said before the regular-season finale. “You sit back and you look at your work and your routine, and if your routine is elite, then you’ve just to continue to work away.”

Meanwhile in Austin, Texas safeties coach Craig Naivar told the American-Statesman he would not be retained by new defensive coordinator Chris Ash. Naivar had removed all references to Texas on his Twitter profile by midday Wednesday.

Naivar stepped in as interim defensive coordinator in Orlando’s stead for the Alamo Bowl. He taught the unit some new calls, benefited from injured players returning and used linebacker Joseph Ossai off the edge. The result was a physical 38-10 victory.

“There’s my job interview,” Naivar said excitedly afterward.

One report indicated Wednesday that Naivar could follow Orlando to Lubbock, but Naivar said he was weighing his options. This came on the same day Wells informed Tech safeties coach Kerry Cooks would not be retained.

For his part, Herman appears to be giving new coordinators Ash and Mike Yurcich wide berth to make complementary staff hires, as he indicated before the Alamo Bowl. Naivar said he did not interview with Ash, but a source said cornerbacks coach Jason Washington did.

Ash is likely to be one of five defensive coaches in 2020. Herman has said he wanted a balanced staff, meaning the same number for both offense and defense. Texas could have a defensive line and defensive ends coach, an indication current defensive line coach Oscar Giles is safe.

On the offensive side, offensive line coach Herb Hand is the only current assistant with a year left on his current contract. Running backs coach Stan Drayton is being pursued by NFL teams, according to one source, although it’s unclear how serious he’s taking those overtures.

Herman is unlikely to make any public comment until the rest of the staff is completed.

Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com.

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