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HATTIESBURG, Miss. – For the first time as a college coach, Dan Disch has the chance to run his own defense. It's a deal he can't pass up.
The six-year Illinois assistant will be named Wednesday as the new defensive coordinator at Southern Miss.
"I'm excited," Disch said. "It's going to be a great challenge. It's an opportunity that I felt I needed to look into."
A successful high school coach, Disch spent the 2004 season on Ron Zook's staff at Florida. When Zook took over at Illinois, Disch came with him.
During his time in Champaign-Urbana, Disch served three seasons as co-defensive coordinator with Curt Mallory. He worked with the Illini linebackers all six seasons, coaching three All-Big Ten players (J Leman twice, Brit Miller and Martez Wilson).
"It's bittersweet, obviously, because we love it here," Disch said. "I'm grateful for the opportunity Coach Zook gave me, and we've made this place our home. It's never easy to leave a place that you love.
"I've been fortunate to coach linebackers at the place Dick Butkus played and coached with some great kids and coaches. It's been a great experience. We'll always be Illini, but it's time to do something different."
Disch isn't starting over with an unfamiliar head coach. He worked with Larry Fedora at Florida and has followed his career since. Fedora originally joined Zook's first Illinois staff as offensive coordinator but moved to Oklahoma State shortly after arriving in C-U.
Southern Miss hired Fedora as head coach in 2007, and he has gone to bowls in his first three seasons. The 2010 Golden Eagles finished 8-5, losing to Louisville 31-28 in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl.
Defense was an issue for Southern Miss in 2010. Three times, the Golden Eagles lost despite scoring at least 43 points. They scored 50 against Tulsa and lost.
Besides his defensive coordinator duties, Disch likely will work with the secondary.
"He wants me to come in and run my stuff," Disch said.