LUBBOCK, Texas – Texas Tech head coach Joey McGuire announced Wednesday the hiring of Zarnell Fitch as the Red Raiders’ defensive line coach. Fitch, another one-time Texas High School Coaches Association member to join McGuire’s charter staff, had previously served in a similar role at TCU.
“Zarnell Fitch is one of the top defensive line coaches in the country and a perfect fit for our defensive staff here at Texas Tech,” McGuire said. “Throughout his time at TCU, I was thoroughly impressed with the type of defensive linemen he was able to bring into the program and then develop. He is another member of this staff that will have significant ties in DFW, and we couldn’t be happier to welcome him and him family to Lubbock.”
Fitch has overseen the TCU defensive line each of the past six years with the Horned Frogs after beginning his tenure as the Director of High School Relations in 2014. Fitch served his alma mater in that role for two years before earning the promotion to a full-time position coach. Over his tenure, he has been part of six bowl teams and three seasons of 10 or more wins.
Since being named the defensive line coach in 2016, Fitch has helped TCU rank near the top of the Big 12 in combined sacks annually as the Horned Frogs have found the quarterback 183 times during that span, the second-highest total currently among conference members. During that time, TCU has ranked among the top-40 schools nationally in sacks per game and tackles for loss per contest in four of his six seasons, rising to as high as No. 6 for sacks in 2016 and No. 10 in TFLs in 2020.
Fitch has mentored 11 Horned Frogs who have earned All-Big 12 honors during his tenure, a list that features four first-team selections in Josh Carroway (2016), Ben Banogu (2017-18), L.J. Collier (2018) and Ross Blacklock (2019). Blacklock is among the most prominent defensive lineman of the Fitch era as he also garnered Big 12 Co-Defensive Freshman of the Year honors in 2017. As a senior, he helped boost a TCU defense that topped the league in nearly all major defensive categories en route to being picked in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans.
Blacklock was one of two Horned Frog defensive lineman who heard their name called during the NFL Draft under Fitch as Collier was chosen 29th overall by the Seattle Seahawks in 2019. He was the first TCU defensive lineman to be selected in the first round since 2010 and only the third in program history to do so.
Fitch was a 2017 finalist for National Defensive Line Coach of the Year by FootballScoop.com. TCU had 42 sacks that season, 11 more than any other conference team, as the Horned Frogs were fifth nationally in rushing defense after allowing only 103.9 yards per game on the ground. TCU featured a dominating defensive line under Fitch as Blacklock and Corey Bethley both earned Freshman All-American honors, while Banogu was tabbed the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year.
TCU had at least one defensive lineman recognized on the All-Big 12 teams in each of Fitch’s six seasons as Aaron Curry was on the second team during his debut season in 2016, while Ochaun Mathis was a two-time selection to the second ream in 2020 and 2021. Khari Coleman was also tabbed the Big 12 Co-Defensive Freshman of the Year under Fitch during the 2020 season.
Fitch’s hire as TCU’s defensive line coach returned him to the same position he once starred at for the Horned Frogs as he was a two-year letterman from 2004-05. A transfer from Navarro College, Fitch appeared in all 12 contests and made three starts as a senior, notably making a pair of interceptions that season, the final one of which that came in TCU’s win over Iowa State in the EV1.net Houston Bowl.
Following his collegiate career, Fitch later spent time with the New York Jets, Baltimore Ravens and Washington Football Team as an undrafted free agent before eventually playing two additional seasons in arena football.
After retiring from football, Fitch joined the coaching staff at Lincoln High School in 2012, serving as an assistant coach for two seasons before being named head coach for the 2013 season. Fitch led the Tigers to a 7-4 record that season, which included a win over Dallas Carter in the Class 4A playoffs. He was also a special education teacher during his time at Lincoln.
Fitch earned his degree in communications and a minor in social work from TCU in 2006. Fitch and his wife, Mollie, have three sons, Zarnell III, Hunter and King, as well as two daughters, Haylee and Hope.
ZARNELL FITCH COACHING HISTORY
2016-21 – TCU Assistant Coach (Defensive Line)
2014-15 – TCU Director of High School Relations
2013 – Lincoln High School Head Coach
2011-12 – Lincoln High School Assistant Coach
Release provided by Matt Dowdy Texas Tech Athletics