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Illinois announces Benn's exit, coach hirings

12/16/2009

Two newsworthy items are now official in Champaign, as Illinois announced the departure of wide receiver Arrelious Benn to the NFL and the hiring of two offensive assistants.

As previously reported here at ESPN.com, Benn will forgo his senior season and enter April's draft. Benn said in a statement that the NFL is his "lifelong dream" and he still plans to complete his degree at Illinois. He told me he's about 20 hours short of his degree but fully plans to complete it.

Benn finalized his decision last week after receiving information from the NFL Draft Advisory Board.

"Wherever I fall in the draft, I have no say about it," Benn said. "It's not my decision. All I can do is be prepared up until that process. I received good feedback, and I just wanted to make that decision and make those things come true."

Head coach Ron Zook said in a statement: "I know this has always been a goal of his, to be in position to make this decision after three years. What is most impressive about him and his mother is their commitment to academics. Even though he will go on to have a great professional career, he is going to make sure to get a degree from Illinois. I love Rejus like my son, and he has always shown such great character and represented the university well."

Zook also has named Jeff Brohm and Greg Nord to his coaching staff. Brohm will coach quarterbacks, while Nord will work with the tight ends. Both men worked with new Illinois offensive coordinator Paul Petrino at Louisville from 2003 to 2006.

Brohm has mentored several standout quarterbacks, including Stefan LeFors and his younger brother, Brian. Nord, a longtime Louisville assistant, is the brother of Purdue offensive coordinator Gary Nord.

"I am very excited about these hires," Zook said in a statement. "Both Jeff and Greg are considered two of the best in the business for what they do. They are proven and have worked in this system with Paul [Petrino]. Their comfort level with the offense gives me great confidence as we move forward with improving this football team. They both are great family men who I know will be great for this community."

Illinois is expected to name Vic Koenning as its new defensive coordinator in the coming days.