Early Tuesday it was announced that University of Illinois Defensive Coordinator Ryan Walters has been named as the new Head Coach of the Perdue Boilermakers.
Walters has been the Illini DC for the last two years.
Before that 2015 through 2020 at the University of Missouri.
He also did stints at Memphis, North Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, and Colorado.
At 36 Walters becomes the 4th youngest Active head coach in FBS.
He replaces Jeff Brohm who left Purdue after 6 years for the University of Louisville. Brohm is a Louisville alumnus and spent 7 years as the QB Coach and later Assistant Coach. Brohm leaves after leading Purdue to back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 2006-2007, and Back-to-back bowl appearances since 2017-2018.
What does Walters bring to Purdue? Just look at what he has done at Illinois.
Illinois prior to Walter's arrival was a complete dumpster fire under head coach/defensive coordinator Lovie Smith Illinois was a doormat defense.
98th in scoring defense allowing 34.9 ppg
67th in passing yards allowed per game 237.1
117th in rushing yards allowed per game 230.6
114th in Total yards allowed per game 467.8
Now they did surprisingly have good turnover numbers.
30th in Turnovers per game 1.9
45th in Interceptions per game .9
16th in Fumbles per game 1
After Walter's arrived with Bielema things started rough but got much better later.
29th scoring defense 21.9 ppg
43rd Passing yards per game 215.2
63rd Rushing yards per game 151.4
47th Total yards 366.6 Ypg
10th Rushing TDs per game 1
52nd passing TDs per game 1.3
54th Turnovers per game 1.4
59th Interceptions per game .8
36th Fumbles per game .7
The rough start came in the first three games and left fans wondering what had changed. It seemed as if it was more of the same as the last year. In the first three games, they gave up 102 points(34 ppg) and 1445 total yards (481 ypg). They surrendered 30 points to Nebraska, 37 points, and a loss to UTSA and 42 points to Virginia.
After giving up 42 points and 556 yards of total offense to Virginia. Head Coach Brett Bielema. declared changes would be made. Over the next nine games, the defense gave up only 162 points (18ppg,) a 47.1% reduction per game. They also gave up only 2954 yards of Total Offense (328.2 ypg) a 31.8% reduction in yards per game. So in just a quarter of a season, you could see the transformation in the Illinois defense and it carried over to this year. The Illini defense was in the top five in six different categories. Including number one in three categories, and in the Top Ten in two other categories.
1st in scoring defense 12.3
6th Passing yards per game 165.4
8th Rushing yards per game 98.4
2nd Total yards per game 263.8
3rd Passing TDs per game .7
3rd Rushing TDs per game .5
1st Turnovers per game 2.5
1st Interceptions per game 1.8
43rd in Fumbles per game.
Walters is a good recruiter but by design, much of the recruiting was done by position coaches and not the coordinators. But, that is not to say he did not get on the road himself. And it is also not to say he did not have an impact on prospective recruits who came to campus on visits. Losing a coach of Walters's status is a blow to a defense that has made such strides in just two years. That is also the danger of having that caliber of a coach in your cadre. there is always someone who has their eye on him.
Don't shed a tear for Brett Bielema, he knows the game. He is also never without options. As evidence here is a statement regarding Walters' departure. “Congratulations to Coach Walters on taking the Head Coaching job at Purdue. Ryan is a talented coach with a bright future. We thank him, and his family for everything they did for our program.” Bielema also had this to say, “This is something that I had seen coming for a while now. We have had a plan in place that we will unveil in the coming weeks that will position Illinois Football for sustained success in 2023 and for years to come.”
So to me either he already has his eye on a candidate OR it is a promotion from within.
Staying with internal staff
First and foremost would be the Current Associate Coach/Outside Linebacker coach Kevin Kane. He was a Defensive Coordinator at SMU (2018-2020), and he was also a Defensive Coordinator in his second stint at Northern Illinois (2016-2017). He started his career as the Quality Control Coach at Wisconsin (2010). He was a Tight Ends and Fullback Coach at Northern Illinois (2011). Then he moved to the defensive side in 2012 coaching linebackers. He was also the Special Teams Coach (2013-2014) He was the Linebacker Coach agt Kansas(2015). Kane has also been a very good recruiter who can be that deal sealer.
The next would be current inside Linebacker coach Andy Buh. Buh is a veteran coach with 25 years of coaching experience, and 9 as a Defensive Coordinator. He started at Nevada as a grad assistant working with Defensive Backs(1997-1998), Defensive Backs, and Special teams coach (1999). California Defensive Administrative Assistant (200-2001), San Diego State Linebacker Coach(2002-2005), Fresno State Grad Assistant(2006), Stanford Linebacker Coach(2007) & Linebackers/Co_Defensive Coordinator(2009-2009), Back to Nevada Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers(2010-2011), CoachWisconsin Linebackers Coach(2012), California Linebackers/Defensive Coordinator(2013), Kentucky Outside Linebacker/Co-Special Teams Coach(2015), Maryland Defensive Coordinator(2016-2018), Rutgers Defensive Coordinator(2019), and Arizona Defensive Coordinator(2020). As for his work with Illinois he has turned out some very good linebackers with two of them this year getting multiple All-Big Ten honors. (Tarique Barnes and Isaac Darkangelo). Coach Buh is an accomplished recruiter as well like Kane
has been key on the recruiting trail.
Other internal names that I have heard mentioned are Defensive Backs Coach, Aaron Henry and Defensive Line Coach, Terrance Jamison.
Going outside the current staff.
One obvious name that JUMPS to the forefront is Jim Leonhard the Wisconsin Defensive Coordinator/interim Head Coach. He will be leaving the Wisconsin program after the Guaranteed Rate Bowl on December 28th. Leonard was a three-time All-American at Wisconsin and then spent nine years in the NFL before joining Paul Cryst's staff in Madison as defensive backs coach(2016) and then becoming the Defensive coordinator(2017). He was named the interim Head Coach after Pual Cryst was let go earlier after his 2-3 start this season. Wisconsin went 4-3 with Leonard at the helm and several players advocated for him to be appointed as the Full-time Head Coach, Wisconsin hired Luke Fickel to be the new Head Coach. Getting a coach of Leonard's stature to me would instantly elevate the Illini to the next level.
Another possibility with ties to Beliema which most of his staff has would be
Chris Ash is the defensive back coach for the Las Vegas Raiders.
Ash is another one who has a long coaching history starting way back in (1998) at Drake university as the Defensive coordinator(1998-1999). He had two stints with Iowa State(2000) starting as a grad Assistant and moving up to Defensive Backs Coach and Recruiting Coordinator(2006) then moving on to do the same job at San Deigo State(2007-2008), then going back to Iowa State(2009), In (2011) he went to Wisconsin to be the Defensive Backs coach took over as Defensive coordinator(2011-2012). He was the Defensive Coordinator for Arkansas(2013) where he coached under Bielema. Then Co-Defensive Coordinator and safeties Coach with Ohio State(2014-2015), He held the same position at Rutgers(2016-2019), He was the Texas Head coach(2019) then the Defensive Analyst(2020). Last year he was the safeties coach from the NFL Jacksonville Jaguars and this year Defensive Coordinator with the Raiders. Ash is another outside coach that would have a major impact and feels like a Brett Beliema hire.
A couple of the other names that could be in play are Arkansas Defensive Coordinator Barry Odom who has attracted the attention of more than a few programs.
Alex Grinich Defensive Coordinator Oklahoma has done almost what Walters did at Illinois taking the Sooners from the 114th-ranked defense to 40th.
I would suspect if Coach Bielema had a plan for this a decision will be made very quickly. Quite possibly before the Reliquest Bowl on January 2. I have heard a number of people thinking Kane is a clear choice, but guys like Ash and Leonhard can't be written off and will be hard to ignore. We have seen Bielema, the basketball team, and even Josh Whitman, they don't waste time. Illinois does not waste time in replacing coaches. So we should no soon.
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