After the 2023 campaign concluded, the Illinois football team went through some coaching changes.
I think most Illini fans would say the 2023 season was a bit of a disappointment. After winning eight games the year before, expectations were raised greatly for the future. But losing a ton of talent didn’t help, and Illinois ended up narrowly missing out on a bowl game with a record of 5-7.
With the season over, Bret Bielema started making some coaching staff adjustments. Both linebackers coach Andy Buh and defensive backs coach Antonio Fenelus were fired. Over the past couple of weeks, wide receivers coach George McDonald took the same position at Ole Miss, and outside linebackers coach Charlie Bullen took the same position with the New York Giants.
These coaching changes really shook up the Illinois football coaching staff. There will be some new voices in the locker room, and that might not be a bad thing.
Illinois football coaching additions after the 2023 season
- David Gibbs – DBs coach – UCF
A couple of weeks ago, Bielema hired David Gibbs as the next defensive backs coach for the Illini. Gibbs has been in coaching since 1991, and he most recently spent the last three seasons as the co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach with UCF.
Opinion: This was a great hire by the Illini. We needed someone to come into the program and help the secondary. Last season, the Knights gave up 201 yards per game through the air, which ranked No. 29 in the country. This was a big-time upgrade in coaching.
- Justin Stepp – WRs coach – South Carolina
Justin Stepp was hired to replace George McDonald as wide receivers coach at Illinois. McDonald went to an SEC program, so naturally, Illinois took Stepp from an SEC program. He spent the last three seasons at South Carolina.
Opinion: I really like this hire by Bielema. Illinois needed someone with wide receiver coaching experience, and Stepp comes into the program after being a wide receivers coach with four other teams since 2012. He can develop playmakers, and that is what the Illini needed.
- Archie McDaniel – LBs coach – Houston
This isn’t quite official yet, but reporting by Matt Zenitz of 247Sports says Illinois is set to hire Archie McDaniel as the next linebackers coach. He has been with the Houston Cougars for the past three seasons.
Opinion: We will see how this hiring goes. McDaniel has a lot of coaching experience, as he has coached some defensive position since 2009. But Houston was awful defensively last season, ranking sub-95 in passing yards, rushing yards, and points allowed. Hopefully, he can help develop some of our linebackers and be a strong recruiter in the state of Texas.