The Illinois football program went through some coaching changes this offseason.
Some people look at the coaching changes for the Illini as a bad thing. I honestly look at most coaching changes as a good thing. In my eyes, coaching changes happen for one of two reasons.
The first, and best, reason is the team is successful, so other teams want the coaches on your staff. You are doing something right if teams are poaching your coaches. That is what happened after the 2022 campaign.
The second reason for coaching changes is that your team didn’t live up to expectations in certain areas on the field. Illinois had a bit of that after this season, but the fact Bret Bielema made some changes to his staff means he isn’t stuck in his ways. He is willing to do what it takes to win games. That is a good thing.
Illinois football coaching changes after the 2023 season
- Andy Buh – LBs coach – Fired
After the season, Andy Buh was fired by Bret Bielema. He was the Illinois linebackers coach since 2021.
Opinion: This firing makes sense. Since Buh entered the program in 2021, the Illini linebackers have been less than stellar. He hasn’t been able to develop much in the way of his own talent. Illinois hasn’t been able to land any big linebackers in any recruiting class either. It was time for a fresh face.
- Antonio Fenelus – DBs coach – Fired
Antonio Fenelus was let go after the 2023 season concluded. He only spent one season as the defensive backs coach for Illinois.
Opinion: This one was a bit of a surprise, especially with the turnover Illinois had after the 2022 season. Defensive coordinator Aaron Henry was the DBs coach before Fenelus took over, so maybe there were some issues there. Illinois’ defensive backfield wasn’t good in 2023. I understand a change needed to be made, and this is the direction Henry wanted to go.
- George McDonald – WRs coach – Ole Miss
Bielema hired George McDonald as the wide receivers coach when he took over at Illinois in 2021. He ended up taking the same position at Ole Miss after the 2023 campaign.
Opinion: McDonald did a great job developing Illinois wide receivers. We haven’t had the best quarterback talent, so what he was able to do with Isaiah Williams and Company was impressive. I imagine he got a big pay increase to head to one of the top teams in the SEC in Ole Miss.
- Charlie Bullen – OLBs coach – New York Giants
After one season with the Illinois football team, Chalie Bullen is now on the move. The Illini outside linebackers coach took the same position with the New York Giants.
Opinion: When you have an NFL team calling, and you get to keep the same position, you take that call and make the move. Bullen clearly had aspirations to get back into the NFL, and the Giants wanted him. I don’t blame Bullen one bit.