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Jan 16, 2020

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The News Gazette published the football assistant coach salaries which went before the BOT today. Basically, nine contracts are set to be renewed (with the only one not renewed being Austin Clark who has left for the Miami Dolphins). Everyone was given a raise and a two-year deal. There's a lot we can learn from stuff like this (link to the News Gazette article is here), so let's talk about it.

Let's start with the salary bumps. It's pretty easy because there are three tiers:

  • Miles Smith, Cory Patterson, Mike Bellamy: bumped to $315,000 per year, all given two year deals
  • Keynodo Hudson and Andrew Hayes-Stoker bumped to $375,000 per year, Bob Ligashesky and Bob McClain bumped to $380,000 per year, all given two year deals
  • Gill Byrd bumps to $445,000 (from $300,000) in 2020 and then $550,000 in 2021; Rod Smith bumps to $750,000 (from $700,000) in 2020, then $800,000 in 2021 and $850,000 in 2022.

First off, it makes it even more clear that Gill Byrd is viewed as a coordinator. Let's just call him "co-DC" and be done with it. His official title is "passing game coordinator" (which is confusing because it sounds like he's an offensive coach), but given this salary bump and the way things were structured this season, Lovie worked on the front-7 and Byrd worked on the back-7, meaning the linebackers kind of had three coaches with Miles Smith as their position coach, Lovie more or less running the run defense (front-7) and Byrd running the pass defense (back-7).

Why don't we know that that's the case and why do we have to guess based on salary tiers? Because Lovie is a need-to-know coach, and you don't need to know. That's not combative nor secretive - it's just Lovie's personality. I'll attempt to describe it this way.

Say Lovie Smith and PJ Fleck both encounter a family at Christmas that doesn't have money for presents. The coaches are, I don't know, standing in line at Walgreens and notice an overwhelmed parent. Both coaches decide to help the family, both purchasing their medicine and giving them cash for Christmas presents. They're blessed with their millions, they were moved by what they saw, they stepped in to help. I think both men would do that.

If both situations were to happen, you would absolutely find out about Fleck doing that and would never hear about Lovie doing that (unless someone observed it happening). That's not really a shot at Fleck - I'm just saying that he would be kind enough to step in but he would also see it as an opportunity to teach others about how to live your life (again, he's more megachurch pastor than he is football coach, and that's not really a shot either). There would be some coaching convention, and Fleck would tell the Walgreens story and how he had to step in and that's how you build a culture because it's your actions not your words and blah blah blah put another slogan on the wall. Okay, THAT was a shot.

Lovie, from my observations, is the opposite. He'd help the family out and never tell a soul. Maybe not even his wife. It's just how he is. And that doesn't mean "my God what a humble servant-leader" either - there are many flaws to that personality type, especially for a college football coach. I believe Lovie Smith could improve his recruiting with a little more "we desperately need you" and a little less "if you don't want to play here, your loss". I've made the comparison before that if there was an in-state coaching convention and the coaches are all in the hotel bar, Pat Fitzgerald would glad-hand every coach in the room and Lovie would sit at the bar by himself with the high school coaches unsure if they should approach him or not. Pat Fitzgerald needs you to like him, and that need is very motivating and helpful as a college coach. Lovie doesn't need anything from you, and while that's a great personality trait - the rare, secure man who feels no need to impress you - sometimes that's a problem for a college coach.

He runs his football program like that. Very... secure. He doesn't spend money on hotshot assistants (maddeningly, sometimes). He doesn't step to any podium anywhere motivated to sell you anything. He doesn't really even think about public relations, I don't think. At training camp, he coaches practice, he answers media questions giving out as little information as possible, and he gets on a bicycle and rides back across campus to the football facility.

In my view, that's how he runs his football program. If you asked him to lay out an org chart he'd probably just write the words "people I trust keeping it simple" on the dry erase board and sit back down. From the outside, he's probably going to appear arrogant (anyone who won't answer specific questions and just sticks to "I know what I'm doing and we're going to turn it around" always will), and from the inside, he's always going to create intense loyalty (see: Lance Briggs, Peanut Tillman, Brian Urlacher, etc.). This is just how he runs an organization.

Will it work in the long term? We still don't know. This past season was encouraging, especially standing toe-to-toe with Wisconsin, but 6-7 isn't where we all want to be. Especially when you look over at PJ Fleck and see him winning 10 games in his third season.

We've seen it start to come together, though. This wasn't one of those 6-6 (2-6) seasons of the past. Four Big Ten wins... is four Big Ten wins. In the last 25 seasons, we won 7 conference games once (2001), 6 conference games once (2007), and 4 conference games four times (1999, 2002, 2010, and 2019). Every other season (the other NINETEEN seasons): three or less conference wins. No Illinois fan should ever shake a stick at four Big Ten wins.

The next step: do it again. And improve on it. Lovie got up at one of the bowl press conferences and noted that next year (2020) was the season that everything was pointing towards. And I agree with that. 15 starters return, 24 seniors, an entire roster of Lovie Smith recruits save for James McCourt, Jake Hansen, Doug Kramer, and Jake Cerny. You play 22 true freshmen in 2017 so that you can win 8 or more games in 2020. Otherwise, why do it?

Personally, I was hoping for a few key coaching changes - I haven't been shy about wanting to see Bob McClain go back to analyst while Harry Hiestand is hired as the offensive line coach - but I should have remembered what head coach we're dealing with. This list of coaching contracts means that there will only be one new coach - a replacement for Austin Clark as defensive line coach. "People I trust keeping it simple" lives on.

Which, to me, puts even more pressure on 2020. Just look around the conference. Using SP+, Purdue was 82nd defensively so DC Nick Holt was fired. Illinois was 92nd offensively and Rod Smith just got a raise and a three-year contract. There are some factors there, of course. If Lovie played the PR game, more than just the diehard fans would know that Illinois had seven injured wide receivers by the end of the season. But the point here is that other coaching staffs are making major changes and Illinois is keeping everything mostly the same.

Which, again, is his prerogative. He has to answer for the $4 million contract, and he gets to do whatever he wants staff-wise. If he wants to keep the same nine guys and only replace Clark - if he thinks Gill Byrd making $445,000 is market value - then so be it. It's Year Five now, so many, many wins are expected. Set up the staff however you see fit - pay your son $315,000 if you want - but you'd better be better than 6-7. 2021 is likely a step backwards with all of the players graduating, so 2020 will tell us what you're capable of building.

And all of the pieces are there to build something great. In terms of experience (snaps played), this team will be top-5 in college football. A senior QB with three senior wide receivers. All of the stars from the most recent recruiting class redshirted (Williams, Cooper, Randolph, Coleman, Cumby, etc), so Lovie gets to sprinkle all of them in as second-year players. Luke Ford and Derrick Smith are now eligible. Players will be back from injury (Epstein, Beason, Smalling, etc). And the schedule starts off like this:

FCS opponent
2-10 team
3-9 team
2-10 team
5-7 team
4-8 team

It's all there. And this will be the coaching staff (plus one CTBNL).

So now... show us what you've got.


Groundhogday on January 16, 2020 @ 07:34 PM

Miles Smith, Cory Patterson, Mike Bellamy: bumped to $315,000 per year, all given two year deals

One of these guys brings zero to recruiting, and is effectively the assistant LB coach. Now if you had a recruiter at that position, then maybe you could afford to bring in more of a "development" DL coach like Phair. As it is, Hudson and Clark were the only D coaches contributing to recruiting, so Lovie has to replace Clark with a strong recruiter. And if that recruiter can't develop a very inexperienced DL we are screwed.

Robert on January 16, 2020 @ 10:05 PM

Lovie has to replace Clark with a strong recruiter. And if that recruiter can't develop a very inexperienced DL we are screwed.

And if that happens, then the coach is out of a job because of poor staff development.

This is what I mean when I say that no stances are even necessary anymore. We don't even have to sweat it. Every single domino has been set up and once the DL coach is hired we'll push the first one over. Either they all fall down to reveal a beautiful pattern in the next 11 months (and this coach gets to set up more dominoes) ~or~ something was aligned improperly, the dominoes stop falling somewhere in the middle, and we find a new domino stacker.

I'm pretty excited about that. Finally, no more "let's see how that develops over the next few seasons". We're simply there now and either it works or it doesn't.

Groundhogday on January 17, 2020 @ 12:23 AM

One problem with this reasoning: what if Lovie puts all of his eggs into next season, we win 7 games, contract extended, and then the program completely craters the following 2-3 seasons. That’s when we might pay the price for not hiring better recruiters, filling ever gap with transfers.

Robert on January 17, 2020 @ 04:01 PM

Then we have to hire a new coach who could hopefully Tom Allen Lovie's Kevin Wilson.

Groundhogday on January 17, 2020 @ 08:27 PM

So you would want to promote Rod Smith to HC if Lovie fails?

Robert on January 17, 2020 @ 10:58 PM

No. I mean that in a "take the program from B to C" sense.

Take Northwestern. Barnett took the program from A to B (and almost back down to A). Walker took it from B to C. Fitzee from C to D. Continue to develop, keep a strong foundation, a little better ever year, never let it slip back to A. Meanwhile our last four coaches have left the program back at A.

At Wisconsin, Alvarez took the program all the way from A to D (and now it's at F or G, mostly thanks to him continuing to guide it). At Minnesota, Kill went A to C and now Fleck looks like he's going C to E. There's lots of ways to keep building it.

So, my hope is that if Lovie can't do anything more than 6-6, we take this current foundation and find someone who can go B to C. Doesn't have to come from the current staff.

Groundhogday on January 18, 2020 @ 03:23 AM

Most of the time when you change coaches and schemes, it is a rebuild, particularly when the coach is fired after a washout season - which is what I'm talking about potentially happening in 2021 and 2022.

illiniranger on January 19, 2020 @ 12:52 AM

There are very few examples of coaches getting fired and the situation not being a total mess. Only at places like FSU, USC, Notre Dame, Michigan, etc. can programs bounce back quickly, because the talent is already on the roster.

If Lovie is fired at Illinois the roster situation will be dire, and a rebuild ahead.

uofi08 on January 16, 2020 @ 08:27 PM

Not sure how I feel about this article. A lot of unnecessary shots. I dislike the arrogance of Fleck and Fitz as much as anyone but come on. I definitely prefer the Lovie presence to the Fleck/Fitz in-your-face-ness, but what they're doing is working great for them and their programs. We can't say definitively that the same is happening here.

I'm just worried about Lovie's stubbornness. Nobody can question his credentials, but you can question his decision making. He seems to value loyalty and comfort with his coaches over player development, recruiting, and game planning. I question if there are any football staffs in this conference that the Illinois staff is objectively better than. Recruiting has been bad relative to the conference. Development has been ok. Quality of play and improvement has been lower than expected. The frustrating part is there are clear areas that can be upgraded, but they are going unaddressed. Offense took a step backward, and with the best qb Lovie has had here. The offensive line did not take a step forward. The defensive line still leaves a lot to be desired. Is it too much to ask for a recruiting class in the top 10 in the conference? I don't know. Barely reaching mediocrity was never the goal when Lovie was brought in, but it seems to be fine to most people now. Just remember, the season before Lovie, we had a team in turnmoil led by an interim below-average MAC coach get us to 5 wins. It's taken 4 years of Lovie to beat that mark by 1 win.

Just look at Underwood. He came in with a pretty specific philosophy and coaching style. What has he done since being hired? He filled out his bench with the best recruiting assistants he could find, probably realizing that is not his strength, none of whom had ever worked with him before. He takes chances filling out his roster and installing his system. Some pieces don't fit and are replaced. Some concepts don't work and are scrapped. He's shown a distinct ability to adapt and adjust: his roster, coaching staff, game planning, offensive and defensive philosophies.

Just wish we would see a little urgency and adaptability with Lovie.

Robert on January 16, 2020 @ 09:43 PM

He seems to value loyalty and comfort with his coaches over player development, recruiting, and game planning.

Not sure I follow this one. I'm certain he would argue that his "loyalty and comfort" with his coaches would lead to better player development, better recruiting, and better game planning.

Just wish we would see a little urgency and adaptability with Lovie.

If I wasn't clear enough in the article I'll state it again: you're never going to get urgency or adaptability from Lovie. You'll simply get consistency and resolve.

Neither is "correct" - Clemson wins by changing nothing, LSU won by changing everything - but if you're looking for urgency here, you're never going to sense it. Lovie's approach to this rebuild has been slow and methodical since the very first season.

uofi08 on January 17, 2020 @ 07:01 PM

I guess I was getting at the makeup of his staff. It's either guys he knows extremely well or younger, less-qualified guys that will not question his authority. Thus giving him loyalty and comfort. The defensive staff especially, was his friend, his son, and 2 youngsters that would not question or give conflicting opinions to Lovie. The offensive side is a little different, as Lovie is more hands-off. But even there, it's AHS, whom Lovie has worked with for years, Patterson, who is young and new and won't question authority, McClain who has never had a P5 coaching job before, and Bellamy, who is an Illini and probably only had this opportunity because of his affiliation with the school. Rod is a bit different, as Lovie needed a guy to trust the offense too. But even with Rod, this is his first time calling plays at the P5 level. All these guys know their role on the totem pole.

What I meant by the "better player development, better recruiting, etc," was the actual staff choices had no evidence of being able to do those things. It seems like every hire is either someone that is light in qualifications or knows Lovie very well. There's no risk taking and there's really no attempts at making big moves. There's nobody on the staff who you can point to and say, "man that guy has a great history of getting the most out of his guys." Or "that guy has put a ton of (X position) into the league." Or "that guy is a recruiting force in (section of country)." Rod was an unknown Co-OC who never called plays. McClain was basically Rod's buddy who'd never been a high level coach. Patterson was recruiting driven (give Lovie a A+ on that one). No DC was hired or even interviewed. Likewise no experienced position coach was hired or interviewed, it was given to Miles.

I don't know. Those just seem like lazy moves. If you have an opening for a position, why would you not try to find the absolute best person for that job? There's no way you can say McClain, Miles, or even Rod are considered top half of their profession, yet that's who Lovie chooses. Your D is terrible? Find the best DC you can, hell even narrow it down to only guys that run your scheme. You can find someone, who at worst you can bounce ideas off of. You have another opening on the defensive side? Find an experienced player developer or the best recruiter out there. It's not hard.

Groundhogday on January 18, 2020 @ 01:48 PM

I get your argument. I think Rod Smith was at the point in his career where someone was going to give him an OC shot. Guy can recruit and has coached QBs for some terrific offenses.

As for the rest, we sure aren’t competing with other P5 college programs for coaches. I thought that with his reputation, Lovie could assemble a crackerjack staff. But he seems to really want loyalty.

uofi08 on January 19, 2020 @ 02:12 AM

Yeah I think you’re right about Rod. That was a perfectly ok hire, but nothing special. Your next point is 100% right and perfectly put. There’s nobody on this staff that any other P5 program wanted or had that we stole away. And the only one who had any P5 experience was Rod, in a non-playcalling role. That’s just beyond underwhelming for any B1G team, especially with the assistant pool Lovie was given.

orngblu on January 17, 2020 @ 01:18 AM

This reminds me of Hayden Fry and Kirk Ferentz at Iowa. Fry was loud and obnoxious, but a great football coach. He made it so easy to hate Iowa. Ferentz is low key, has had very low turnover in assistants and hired his son. He is also a great coach. I'm originally from Moline, and will always hate Iowa, but I have a lot of respect for Ferentz.

Groundhogday on January 17, 2020 @ 09:39 AM

Brian Ferenz was a starting OL at Iowa who spent a couple of years on NFL practice squads. Coached on the Patriots staff for three years before taking over OL duties at Iowa. Served in that role for 5 years before becoming OC.

Can’t really compare Brian Ferenz to Miles Smith with regard to qualifications.

illiniranger on January 17, 2020 @ 02:38 PM

This post is what I would call “Lovie Whispering”. I think you’ll get some pushback on it because, regardless of your intent, it reads like apologia for Lovie Smith and company. There was a time when this blog was very critical of Ron Zook and deservedly so. Ron Zook achieved more, faster than Lovie. For long time readers the change in tone is very noticeable. Which again, comes across as apologia for Lovie Smith, regardless of intent. So anyway, there’s that.

As far as “stances” go I think the debate isn’t whether or not Lovie has improved the program (everybody would probably agree he has). The debate is how much and how fast. Josh Whitman made no bones about #WeWillWin and stared things at the hiring presser like “There isn’t a living room in the country Lovie won’t get into.” The bar was set by the DIA very high. Now I will agree with Josh that “everyone doesn’t start from the same place” and some rebuilds will take longer than others. But the objective of the big splashy hire is big splashy results. Some people are frustrated that when the results aren’t there, the definition of success is redefined down. 6-7 is not a “magical season” with only one W over a team with a winning regular season. It’s just not. 2007 was a magical season. People are going to push kind of stuff because, well, they should. It’s condescending - the subtext is “if you’re not satisfied with average results then you’re a bad fan.”

Honestly, with this much coming back, and the long sell job of patience and #WeWillWin, anything less than 9 or 10 Ws is kind of a failure. Illinois may not have started where MN did when Fleck was hired, but we oughta be there at the end of Year 5. We were sold #WeWillWin. Time to win big.

IBFan on January 18, 2020 @ 12:46 AM

Much of this is spot on. However the number of wins “demanded”!is ludicrous. Six,seven, eight wins and another bowl game isn’t good enough for one of the worst programs this century....yeesh.

Groundhogday on January 18, 2020 @ 04:42 AM

Given our schedule, anything less than 8 wins and we need to move on to a coach who cN take that next step

uofi08 on January 19, 2020 @ 02:18 AM

8 wins is a perfectly fine expectation. The non conference is 3 scheduled wins. Add Rutgers as 4. If you can’t go 4-4 against your peers in year 5, with the most experienced team in the country, it’s time to move on.

Nashvegas Illini on January 17, 2020 @ 03:01 PM

I have no problem with nepotism because to Roberts point this is result based business and if you can win while coaching your son and his players than fine.

I'm also fine with recruiting with respect to where we've been. If you look at Illini 247, Lovie recruited the 8th and 9th best recruits since they've been tracking the data (Marquez Beason and Isaiah Williams). Our skill position players next yr project to all be 4 star or better recruits (Peters, Epstein, Ford, Smalling, Sidney and Imatorbhebhe). When in your life time have we been able to say that.

To the point of the article Robert wrote. Can Lovie's style work? In recruiting, I think we have a lot of room to grow. I expect 2021 to be one of the best classes in Illini history. But Lovie has shown great flexibility in recruiting. He has changed recruiting areas when Illinois kids weren't committing. He's found under the radar talent. He's signed Juco and transfer portal players that have raised the overall talent level.

On the field, Lovie has evolved his scheme every year on Defense. Fired friends and signed on coaches he hadn't worked with to get better results.

To Roberts point, I don't know if it will be enough. If he doesn't win 8 games then the Season is a disappointment in my eyes no matter what. Yr 4 you should have depth or at least young talent that you believe in at just about every position and I believe he has that. Lovie needs to address his secondary this spring/summer. You can't keep moving players around and expect for them to perform at the level you need.

I've already put way to many word into this but I think we're all on the same page. We are all cautiously optimistic about the next 12 months of Illini football. But one way or another 12 months from now we will know whether Lovie can coach and whether Lovie can recruit to the level that Iliinois can competing for BIG west championships.

Robert on January 17, 2020 @ 04:33 PM

But one way or another 12 months from now we will know whether Lovie can coach and whether Lovie can recruit to the level that Iliinois can competing for BIG west championships.

Agree wholeheartedly with this. It's a two-part final exam (first part is recruiting, second part is the season), and he has to pass both to show that the trajectory is what it needs to be. That doesn't mean he's done - he'd get a pass on a 2021 "secondary rebuild" but has to come right back with a bigger surge in 2022. But, pass this two-part test and it earns him the next step.

And I have to say, I'm so relieved that it's here. I've spent so much energy attempting to hold back the dam while asking people to give him a fair shake given what he inherited. It was the only fair way to approach it, in my view, but I lost so much skin the last three years.

Construction is finally complete, though, so now either the dam holds on its own or it breaks (perhaps in spectacular 2009 fashion).

IBFan on January 18, 2020 @ 01:03 AM

You question whether Lovie Smith can coach? Do you realize the complete absurdity of this statement?
Almost all of you, including Robert, wouldn’t give Clark a fair shake either. Did any of you know how good his personal interactions were with recruits or players? Nope. Lovie Smith did. Do any of you know what Mikes Smith or any other coach brings to the table in it’s entirety? Nope. Different blogs and posters unmercifully ripping Ligashesky at beginning of year, good call. This program thru and thru was a complete and absolute dumpster fire, from administration, coaches, facilities, and not having talented enough players to compete. In a short time everything has improved. Yes, short time. I know many of you expect to be CEOs after working somewhere for a whole two years and think that the way the Astros, Kansas and others do things so quickly is easily replicated but in a honest way, it’s not.

Groundhogday on January 18, 2020 @ 04:47 PM

FWIW, in a short time everything also improved under Beckman.

  • 2014 78 F/+, 6-7 record (minor bowl loss)
  • 2019 67 F/+, 6-7 record (minor bowl loss)

Your argument seems to be that only folks who work for the football program can make comments on the direction of the program? Interesting idea for a fan forum.

thumpasaurus on January 17, 2020 @ 03:11 PM

This does a good job of laying out why Lovie is so frustrating.

From the outside, it never looks like anything is being done to directly address areas of need.

Every time a coach takes over a struggling program, a certain amount of faith in things unseen is needed by fans. Lovie's approach really maximizes the amount of blind faith needed, because you're just never shown things.

The offense will need to improve substantially. This means the offensive line will need to be elite. Nothing is changing that would lead you to believe that's possible. It either will or won't happen.

The defensive line needs to improve substantially, since the defense isn't going to change fundamentally. The safeties need to take a huge step forward. How's that going to happen? Nobody knows. Maybe it will, maybe it won't.

This damn team defies speculation almost by design.

Alls I know is that I'm going to be evaluating this season within the context of "we've effectively mortgaged 2021/2022 to pay for this 2020." So 2020 is going to have to be worth giving up 2021/2022. In fact, given how unknowable Illinois recruiting is, who's to say the program even comes through the other side? Maybe there is no resurgence after 2020. Maybe it just falls apart and we have a new coach for '23. Point is, I'm looking at 2020 as though there's no future beyond it.

We're going to have to subsist on the memories of 2020 for a few years, so it had better fatten us up good.

Robert on January 17, 2020 @ 04:16 PM

Alls I know is that I'm going to be evaluating this season within the context of "we've effectively mortgaged 2021/2022 to pay for this 2020." So 2020 is going to have to be worth giving up 2021/2022.

2021 I get, but I don't think anything has been "mortgaged" for 2022. We'd have a ton of players returning from the rebuilding year and it should leap (if it's being built properly).

The difference between Ron Turner and Barry Alvarez is Year Seven - 2003 (for Turner) and 1996 (for Alvarez). Both coaches fell off after Year Five when their first full class graduated (Alvarez won four games in his sixth season; Turner won five). But Alvarez then won eight games the following year and Turner won one. Barry was building a program, Turner was building a team.

I just tried to find it and I can't, but when I wrote that 3-5-7-9 article in 2016 (proposing that we'd win three games in 2017, then five in 2018, and so on), I believe I ended saying we'd drop to 4 or 5 wins in 2021 and then 2022 is everything. Something like 3-5-7-9-5-??

Well, we've gone 2-4-6-?? I could see 8 and then 4 and then 2022 is somewhere between Alvarez and Turner.

jdl on January 17, 2020 @ 03:27 PM

So it seems we're hiring a Juco guy to fill the spot left open by Clark leaving. Which makes me look at the recent hires, is it really a bunch of tactical recruiting choices? Clark to get the USC transfers. Patterson for St Louis. Now a JC guy to get some immediate help from that source? Sounds like there may be another hire coming as well.

That's not a bad tactic, IMO. But you'd hope it would pay off a little better in recruiting and then there's the question of player development and the coaching aspect. Hard for me to judge that part of it, ultimately it's the W/L that will tell the story.

thumpasaurus on January 17, 2020 @ 03:40 PM

Haven't heard about this, but if there's no smoke, I'd just like to point out that Keith Gilmore is available.

Robert on January 17, 2020 @ 03:44 PM

Sounds like there may be another hire coming as well.

Like, an analyst or something? Once the DL coach is hired, we'll be full at all 10 assistant coaching spots. I doubt the BOT would approve contracts on January 16th for coaches who would then leave a few weeks later. So I'm seeing these contract approvals as meaning that those nine coaches are definitely returning.

Groundhogday on January 17, 2020 @ 06:00 PM

Alfred Davis posted that he would be the defensive tackles coach. that might have just been a careless post, or perhaps there is more reshuffling in the works. E.g. Perhaps Byrd was given a raise to help his negotiations for an NFL job? Or maybe someone has a change in assignment, though it is hard to imagine who would coach the DE from the current D staff.

Groundhogday on January 17, 2020 @ 11:37 PM

Whelp... uofi08 might be right. Lovie sure doesn't seem to have much interest in hiring experienced P5 defensive coaches.

  • Miles Smith - Coaches son. Least experienced or qualified B1G assistant.
  • Hudson - 2 years Florida Atlantic before Illinois
  • Davis - Arkansas GA, 3 years Juco coach. Might bring stud DT from his Juco.
  • Lindsey - 20 years toiling at lower level schools.

Let's hope this works out. With the salary pool available, no DC, not sure why we can't afford to bring in at least 1 proven P5 D coach. Other than Miles, I don't have a problem with any individual hire. Collectively however,...

IBFan on January 18, 2020 @ 01:08 AM

In your vast coaching experience and deep personal knowledge of the inner workings of the practices, meetings, and all the interactions between Miles Smith and the players would you care to reflect on his shortcomings?

Groundhogday on January 18, 2020 @ 03:16 AM

Shortcoming is that Lovie could have hired a proven recruiter for that position and continued to get Miles’ contributions from a non-recruiting position.

Illiniiniowa on January 18, 2020 @ 02:29 AM

LB play improved a lot this year. I've no idea how much credit Miles deserves, but nothing on the field this past year suggests Miles was a poor hire.

After the Ryan Cubit fiasco, I understand being skeptical about coach's kids

Groundhogday on January 18, 2020 @ 02:41 AM

Do you realize that (a) Lovie actively coached LBs, and (b) Miles is a zero as a recruiter. Miles is essentially a GA or non-recruiting assistant getting a recruiting coaches salary.

Groundhogday on January 18, 2020 @ 02:41 AM

Do you realize that (a) Lovie actively coached LBs, and (b) Miles is a zero as a recruiter. Miles is essentially a GA or non-recruiting assistant getting a recruiting coaches salary.

Robert on January 18, 2020 @ 01:03 PM

Perhaps the News-Gazette FOIA'd an old copy of the BOT agenda for Thursday? The board approving a contract for Byrd and them him announcing he was stepping down the very next day is really odd. The new hires had to clear HR before they could announce anything so clearly this was all in the works before Thursday. So why put a multi-year Byrd contract in front of the board?

Groundhogday on January 18, 2020 @ 01:53 PM

Am I cynical to wonder if this gave Byrd a bigger departure check on his way out the door? Really strange. The whole Byrd thing was strange from start to finish. If you are going to pay a guy that much and he doesn’t recruit at all, then he has to be a coordinator.

Now we have a D staff without a single guy remotely close to being able to step into the coordinator role if needed. ALL on Lovie.

jdapisa on January 18, 2020 @ 02:04 PM

Come on everyone. They knew Byrd was leaving so they got the BOT to approve a huge salary so they could use it on someone else In the future. Lovie obviously knew Byrd was leaving (stopped traveling for recruiting), so maybe that’s not the only thing Lovie knows about his plan for the coaching staff....

Groundhogday on January 18, 2020 @ 03:18 PM

But Lovie just hired two DL coaches in the bargain basement category. As with Nickerson for Miles, we had the salary to hire a coordinator or stud recruiter, but only hired a GA.

Groundhogday on January 18, 2020 @ 03:38 PM

Per Kent Brown on WDWS this morning, Byrd came to Lovie and resigned after the new salaries were submitted to the BOT. Apparently they had only planned to hire one DL coach, but Byrd leaving they hired a second. Not clear which of Lindsey or Davis were hired first.

Again per Brown, Lovie primarily coached LBs last season but might coach safeties this season. Apparently this was the position he primarily helped with prior to this past season.

Groundhogday on January 18, 2020 @ 03:56 PM

Worth noting: Nickerson was a spectacularly bad hire. Minimal recruiting, terrible DC, poor LB coach. And one of the highest paid guys on staff.

illiniranger on January 18, 2020 @ 05:57 PM

I thought the Nickerson hire was bad at the time. He’d never done the job. One of the risks hiring Lovie off cycle was that he’d have to scramble a bit to put together a staff.

I thought the McGee hire was good, I was wrong on that one.

Groundhogday on January 18, 2020 @ 08:03 PM

Who is left from the original staff? Hayes-Stoker, Ligs... Am I missing someone? I suppose that is why I struggle to "trust Lovie" on staff hires. Heck of a lot of turnover on this staff, 10 guys gone after 4 years: Paul Williams, McGee, Nickerson, Ward, Phair, McGarigle, Butkus, Abraham, Clark, Byrd.

If our models are Iowa, Wisconsin on MSU those schools generally fairly stable coaching staffs.

Groundhogday on January 18, 2020 @ 08:34 PM

This list of coaching contracts means that there will only be one new coach - a replacement for Austin Clark as defensive line coach. "People I trust keeping it simple" lives on.

Not sure this is really the model. Lovie didn't have any prior connections to Hudson, Clark, Davis or Lindsey. Lovie guys like Abraham, Byrd, and Nickerson washed out, sometimes spectacularly. On offense, Hayes-Stoker is the only Lovie guy left, though he did build a relationship with Patterson when recruiting his high school team for a couple of years.

It seems Lovie prefers to hire inexperienced coaches. From my quick review of B1G staffs, ours is the least experienced by a wide margin. Perhaps Lovie thinks he can't compete for quality experienced coaches, so he would rather mold guys with less experience? We will see if it works.

illiniranger on January 19, 2020 @ 12:57 AM

Occam’s Razor. Lovie has built this staff because it’s the best he can do, not because there’s some sort of master plan unknowable to the masses that must be explained through Lovie Whispering.

Groundhogday on January 20, 2020 @ 12:02 AM

Don't know about that. I'd bet if Lovie was determined to get more proven assistants on his staff, it could be done. But clearly assistant coaches are not scrambling to hitch their wagon to the Lovie train. When guys like Thad Ward and Austin Clark leave for at best parallel career moves, that doesn't suggest a lot of confidence in where this is going.

AngeredSnowmen on January 20, 2020 @ 03:57 AM

College position coach to NFL position coach is a clear upward career move.

Groundhogday on January 20, 2020 @ 08:12 PM

Not sure outside LB coach for the Dolphins is an obviously good career move for a guy whose strength is recruiting. IF he thought Illinois was due for a break out season next year, wouldn't he want to be part of that and launch to his next coaching position from there? Master Lovie's defense and build toward a DC position?

Lou-a-villini on January 19, 2020 @ 05:53 PM

Raise your hand if you got into the wrong profession? :)

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