Illini land co-defensive coordinator

Illini land co-defensive coordinator

UPDATED: 1:50 P.M.

CHAMPAIGN — Mike Phair was named Illinois co-defensive coordinator on Friday, a source close to the program told The News-Gazette on Friday morning.

Illinois officially announced the hiring shortly before noon.

"I am extremely pleased to add someone of Coach Phair’s caliber to our coaching staff,” Illinois coach Tim Beckman said in a statement. “He is established as one of the rising defensive line coaches in the profession and is greatly prepared to take on the role as our co-defensive coordinator. His work with Lovie Smith, (Marc) Trestman and Rod Marinelli has provided an incredible amount of experience. Mike has worked with some outstanding defensive linemen during his career, and we are really looking forward to what he brings to the table.”

Phair spent last season on Lovie Smith's staff with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Phair had been with the Bears for three seasons — including two with Smith — from 2011 to '13.

Phair will take on the co-defensive coordinator duties with current assistant Tim Banks.

Illinois has one more opening on the staff, but that will be filled at a later time.

The source told The News-Gazette that adding Phair was considered a priority.

Phair also spent three seasons as an assistant with the Seahawks. He also coached at his alma mater, Arizona State, from 1999 to 2000.

He played with the Sun Devils in 1990-91. He was an all-conference linebacker at Mesa Community College in 1988-89.

In 2014, the Illinois defense ranked among the worst in the country. The Illini were 109th in total yards allowed (456.4 yards per game), 107th in points allowed (34.0) and 115th in rushing defense (239.2 yards per game).

Phair will welcome back some talented pieces from 2014, including cornerback V'Angelo Bentley, linebacker Mason Monheim and defensive end Jihad Ward.

Phair game
Three items you need to know about Mike Phair, the newest addition to Tim Beckman’s staff:

■ Before he started working as an assistant in the NFL, the Arizona State graduate was an NFL scout for six seasons, three with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2002-04) and three with the Seattle Seahawks (2005-07).

■ In his three seasons as defensive line coach with the Chicago Bears, the Bears fluctuated when it came to sacks. His first season in 2011 saw the Bears record 35 sacks, tied for 19th in the league, before moving up to eighth after compiling 41 in 2012, before plummeting in 2013 to only 31 sacks, which tied for worst in the league with Jacksonville.

■ This past season in Tampa Bay, where he was an assistant defensive line coach, the Buccaneers tied for 21st in sacks (36). Former Illini defensive tackle Akeem Spence recorded 37 tackles and three sacks this past season for 2-14 Tampa Bay.