Big Ten: Greg Nord
He has spent enough time interviewing job candidates during the last eight months.
Zook made his seventh -- and hopefully final -- coaching hire for the 2010 season on Wednesday, naming Chip Long as Illinois' new tight ends coach. Long replaces Greg Nord, who left for a position at Kentucky before coaching a single game at Illinois.
Long spent the last two years as a graduate assistant at Arkansas, where he tutored the tight ends. He worked under new Illinois offensive coordinator Paul Petrino with the Razorbacks and also has familiarity with new Illinois quarterbacks coach Jeff Brohm from a stint at Louisville.
"Chip is an outstanding young coach," Zook said in a prepared statement. "He is very knowledgeable of our offense after his experience with Paul Petrino. He's played the position at high level. Chip brings great energy to an already energized staff."
Long played receiver and tight end at North Alabama and helped Arkansas tight end D.J. Williams become a Mackey Award semifinalist in 2008.
"I'm extremely excited to come to Illinois and have the opportunity to work with a great coaching staff that has high expectations," Long said in a statement. "I'm fortunate to be coming into a system that I'm very familiar with, having worked with both coach Petrino and coach Brohm earlier in my career. They've been terrific mentors as I've broken into the coaching profession and I look forward to working with them again here at Illinois."
Long is young, but his experience with both Petrino and Brohm should help. Zook had to act quickly since camp begins in less than a month, and he came through.
I wonder the last time a team made seven assistant coaching hires in a single offseason while retaining its head coach. It's got to be a record.
From the looks of your e-mails, the answer is yes. How did some of you function before our little blog network kicked off? Anyway, I'm back from Mexico, revived and refreshed as we're less than a month away from the start of preseason camps in the Big Ten.
The league didn't follow my advice and expand again during my vacation, but there was some news during the last 10 days or so. Here's a quick recap:
- Heralded offensive line recruit Seantrel Henderson was released from his letter of intent from USC, but ended up signing with Miami instead of Ohio State, Minnesota or another school. It seems like these days, every drama king shirks the state of Ohio and ends up in Miami. Buckeyes fans certainly wanted Henderson, despite his father's less-than flattering comments about head coach Jim Tressel, and there are some disappointed folks out there. But remember that Ohio State has had its share of five-star offensive line recruits who didn't pan out. The 2011 recruiting class looks stellar, and the offensive line likely will return three starters next year. My take on Henderson heading to the U? No big deal.
- Iowa starting defensive end Broderick Binns faces some type of a suspension after his arrest early Friday on suspicion of drunken driving. Binns' arrest comes about a month after running back Jewel Hampton and cornerback Jordan Bernstine were charged with public intoxication. These incidents are common around college campuses, but Iowa should have a heightened sense of awareness and concern after enduring a swell of player arrests in 2007 and 2008. Iowa had minimal issues between the spring of 2009 and early this summer, but it can't afford another string of conduct problems. These things tend to happen in waves.
- Joe Paterno seems to be out of the woods after health issues sidelined the 83-year-old for much of May and June. Although Paterno's recent illness never posed a major threat to him coaching the team this fall, any health problems can't be taken lightly at his age. There also were some updates on Penn State's quarterback competition from the Lift for Life charity event, which raised more than $98,000 for the Kidney Cancer Association (congrats to Scott Shirley and his staff for another great event).
- Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick thinks the realignment issue isn't going anywhere, and while nothing is imminent, he'll continue to monitor what happens around the golden dome. Swarbrick told the South Bend Tribune: "I had a lot of people shouting across the street to me to stay independent and it was interesting, but correspondences ran both ways. I think there's an assumption that there's a universal view among our fans and alumni on this, and there isn't. It's always great to hear what people think, but there are so many of the pieces of information they didn't know, they couldn't know, that there's limited value to that input in this case." I like this perspective from Swarbrick. He recognizes the pressure to stay independent, but he also doesn't put too much stock in the opinions of the less informed. My take: Notre Dame won't make a move unless Texas does.
- A few coaching nuggets, as tight ends coach Greg Nord left Illinois for Kentucky before spending a single game on the Illini sideline. Also, Purdue head coach Danny Hope named a full-time recruiting coordinator in Don Coller, while promoting Casey Nuss to supervisor of football operations.
Barring any late coaching changes, here's a look at who's gone, who's back and who's in new roles.
- Who's out: Mike Schultz (fired)
- Who's in: Paul Petrino (previously offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach at Arkansas)
- Who's out: Dan Disch and Curt Mallory both were demoted to position coaches. Disch is staying on staff as linebackers coach.
- Who's in: Vic Koenning (previously co-defensive coordinator at Kansas State)
- Who's out: Kurt Beathard (fired)
- Who's in: Jeff Brohm (previously quarterbacks coach at Florida Atlantic)
- Who's out: Jim Pry (fired)
- Who's in: Greg Nord (previously running backs coach/recruiting coordinator at Louisville)
- Who's out: Reggie Mitchell (left to become running backs coach/recruiting coordinator at Kansas)
- Who's in: DeAndre Smith (previously running backs coach at UNLV)
- Mallory left his position as secondary coach to become defensive coordinator at Akron.
- Special-teams coordinator Mike Woodford was fired along with Schultz, Beathard and Pry.
- Ron West was hired as a defensive assistant. His official responsibilities have not been announced.
Offensive line coach
- Who's out: Bobby Johnson (left to become assistant offensive line coach with the Buffalo Bills)
- Who's in: Myron "Mo" Moriarity (previously served as head coach at Carmel (Ind.) High School
No staff changes, but recruiting coordinator Eric Johnson was named tight ends coach. Wide receivers coach Erik Campbell previously had worked with the tight ends, while Johnson had helped Darrell Wilson with the linebackers.
- Who's out: Jay Hopson (left to become defensive coordinator at Memphis)
- Who's in: Quality control assistant Adam Braithwaite was promoted to outside linebackers/strong safeties coach. Defensive coordinator Greg Robinson will take a more active role with the linebackers in 2010.
- Secondary coach Tony Gibson will continue to work with cornerbacks and free safeties, and also serve as special-teams coordinator.
Running backs coach
- Who's out: Dan Enos (left to become head coach at Central Michigan)
- Who's in: Brad Salem (previously served as head coach at Augustana College)
Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach
- Who's out: Jedd Fisch (left to become quarterbacks coach with the Seattle Seahawks)
- Who's in: Jeff Horton (previously served as quarterbacks coach with the Detroit Lions)
- Who's out: Richard Hightower (left to become assistant special-teams coach for the Washington Redskins)
- Who's in: Steve Watson (previously served as associate head coach with the Denver Broncos in 2008)
- Running backs coach Thomas Hammock was named co-offensive coordinator
No coaching changes
No coaching changes
No coaching changes
Defensive line coach
- Who's out: Terrell Williams (left to become defensive line coach at Texas A&M)
- Who's in: Gary Emanuel (previously served as defensive line coach at Rutgers). Emanuel also was named co-defensive coordinator with a focus on run defense.
Defensive backs coach
- Who's out: Kerry Cooks (left to become outside linebackers coach at Notre Dame)
- Who's in: Chris Ash (previously served as defensive backs coach/recruiting coordinator at Iowa State)
- Randall McCray, who served as Wisconsin's recruiting coordinator and assistant secondary coach, left to become defensive coordinator at Middle Tennessee. Wisconsin has yet to fill the vacancy.
No role was specified for West in a news release, but he will reportedly work alongside Dan Disch, the team's former co-defensive coordinator who will now work with the inside linebackers. West replaces Curt Mallory, who left last month to become Akron's new defensive coordinator.
The Illini also named new tight ends coach Greg Nord as recruiting coordinator and added assistant head coach to offensive line coach Joe Gilbert's title. Nord served as recruiting coordinator at Louisville, his last coaching stop.
West previously served as co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach at Tulsa. Before Tulsa, he spent 10 seasons on Clemson's staff, where he worked under new Illinois defensive coordinator Vic Koenning. West coached both sides of the ball at Clemson.
"[West] and Vic have a great working relationship and that will add a needed cohesiveness as we move forward on the defensive side of the ball," Zook said in a statement. "Ron shares our passion for getting this program back on track and will be a great teacher and leader for our young men."
The connection with Koenning clearly fueled the move for West, who said in a statement: "I am excited about being reunited with Vic. The last time we were together, the defense was in the top 10 in the country. We'll expect to create that passion on defense that puts us in national rankings."
Although the shuffling on Illinois' defensive staff wasn't as dramatic as the offensive side, it will be interesting to see how these coaches work together. Disch's role is much smaller, Koenning and West are new and line coach Keith Gilmore is the only holdover in the same position.
Dienhart reports on his Twitter page that Illinois has hired Smith as its new tight ends coach, though Smith could end up overseeing the Illini running backs. Former Louisville assistant Greg Nord was named Illinois' tight ends coach in December.
An Illinois official couldn't confirm the hiring and said no announcement had been planned as of early Monday afternoon.
Smith has coached running backs at UNLV (2009), New Mexico (2008), Miami University (2005-07), Northern Illinois (2001-04) and Indiana State (1999-2000). He helped to produce standouts like New Mexico's Rodney Ferguson and Northern Illinois' Michael Turner and Garrett Wolfe.
Illinois lost its running backs coach, Reggie Mitchell, the team's recruiting coordinator, to Kansas last month. Mitchell had been the team's top recruiter in the Chicago area, though Smith has ties to Chicago and the Midwest from his time at Northern Illinois and other spots.
Head coach Ron Zook already has hired three new offensive assistants: coordinator/wide receivers coach Paul Petrino, Nord and quarterbacks coach Jeff Brohm. Offensive line coach Joe Gilbert likely will be the lone holdover from 2009.
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.
Illinois head coach Ron Zook hopes to recreate it.
Zook is hiring three former Louisville assistants to handle Illinois' offense in a make-or-break 2010 season.
Paul Petrino, most recently the offensive coordinator at Arkansas, takes the same job in Champaign. Petrino served as offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach at Louisville from 2003-06 before following his older brother Bobby to the Atlanta Falcons and then to Arkansas. Though the move from Arkansas to Illinois might seem a bit odd, Paul Petrino now will get to call his own plays (Bobby handled the Razorbacks' play-calling duties).
Greg Nord, who spent the past 15 years on Louisville's coaching staff, heads to Illinois to coach tight ends. And Jeff Brohm, the former Louisville offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach who most recently held the same titles at Florida Atlantic, will coach QBs for Illinois, according to colleague Bruce Feldman.
Zook has acted extremely quickly since Friday, when he dismissed four assistants, including offensive coordinator Mike Schultz, and demoted co-defensive coordinators Dan Disch and Curt Mallory. The embattled coach clearly had a replacement plan before announcing the changes. He still has to find a defensive coordinator, with former Kansas assistant Bill Miller a possible candidate.
All three incoming assistants -- Petrino, Nord and Brohm -- were part of Louisville's heyday.
In case you've forgotten -- it feels like eons ago for U of L fans -- the Cardinals lit up the sky and the scoreboard from 2003-07. Louisville's offense ranked in the top 10 nationally in all five seasons, leading the nation in 2004 (539 ypg) and ranking second in 2006 (475.3 ypg).