Illini hire new offensive coordinator

Illini hire new offensive coordinator

CHAMPAIGN — If you like Rich Rodriguez's offense, you are going to be fan of the new guy in charge at Illinois.

Lovie Smith on Friday hired Rod Smith as his offensive coordinator. He replaces Garrick McGee, who was fired after the 2017 season.

The new offensive coordinator received a two-year deal from Illinois worth $500,000 annually.

Lovie Smith also hired a tight ends coach today: Cory Patterson from St. Louis Trinity High School. Patterson has a two-year deal worth $220,000 annually.

Smith, the co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Arizona, played quarterback for Rodriguez at Glenville (W.Va.) State and worked on Rodriguez's staffs at West Virginia, Michigan and Arizona. Smith's salary with the Wildcats was $340,000.

At Arizona in 2017, Smith's Wildcats ranked fifth nationally in scoring offense and 12th in total offense.

Smith was given credit for helping the development of West Virginia's Pat White and Michigan's Denard Robinson. White finished in the Heisman Trophy top 10 twice and left school as the top running quarterback in FBS history. Robinson broke White's quarterback rushing record.

At Arizona, Smith worked directly with quarterbacks Anu Solomon and Khalil Tate. As a sophomore in 2017, Tate threw for 1,591 yards and 14 touchdowns. He ran for 1,411 and another 12 scores. Solomon threw for 3,793 yards and 28 touchdowns in 2014 and another 2,667 yards in '15.

"Rod Smith brings terrific and exciting offensive experience to our staff at Illinois," Lovie Smith said. "His background and development of dual-threat quarterbacks and multiple-threat offenses is the direction we are going here. Rod has developed explosive quarterback play and offensive performance at each of his coaching stops."


Smith started his coaching career in 1997 as offensive coordinator at Franklin High School in West Virginia. He moved to Urbana University in 1998 and West Virginia Tech in 2000.

After working as a graduate assistant at Clemson and West Virginia, he became South Florida quarterbacks coach and run-game coordinator in 2001. Besides his time with Rodriguez, Smith worked as co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach for Kevin Wilson at Indiana in 2011.

Smith has plenty of work to do at Illinois. Lovie Smith's third team currently has one scholarship quarterback on the roster (Cam Thomas) after the recent departures of Chayce Crouch and Jeff George Jr.

The Illinois offense was ineffective in 2017. McGee used three starting quarterbacks in a 2-10 season, which included the first 0-9 Big Ten finish in school history.

The Illini finished 125th nationally (out of 129 schools) in first downs. They were 126th in total offense, 126th in scoring offense and 122nd in rushing offense.

Smith inherits a young offensive line that included four freshman starters. Nick Allegretti returns to anchor the group.

New tight ends coach Patterson joins Smith's staff after three years as head coach at Trinity, He went 27-6 and led Trinity to 2016 2A state title game.

"Cory Patterson is an up-and-coming star in the coaching world," Lovie Smith said. "I got to know him while he was doing an outstanding job at Trinity Catholic, and saw the coaching and leadership skills that will be a tremendous fit at the University of Illinois. He is a high-energy, highly motivated young coach."

Patterson coached current Illini freshman offensive lineman Larry Boyd at Trinity.

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illinifaningeorgia wrote on January 19, 2018 at 3:01 pm

Talk about not having any pressure to live up to the previous guy.  Bottom 5 in the country last year in 4 offensive categories.  That's pretty "offensive".

Pretty hokey for Asmussen to say that Illinois finished 0-9 in the B1G for the first time in school history---it's the 1st time in school history that they played 9 conference games.


OrlandoIllini wrote on January 19, 2018 at 3:01 pm

Illinois played the nine other Big Ten football teams in 1983 and won them all, under Mike White. It was the last time any school would play all other conference members in one season.


Moonpie wrote on January 21, 2018 at 3:01 pm

Seems like a desperat hire. A guy who worked for a twice-fired head coach. He'll be looking again after the coming Love Dovie Buyout.