CHAMPAIGN — Bret Bielema’s coaching staff for the 2023 season appears to be set now.
The Illinois football program announced the hiring of Robby Discher as the new special teams coordinator and tight ends coach on Tuesday.
Discher arrives after spending last season at Tulane as the Green Wave’s special teams coordinator.
“We are very excited to have Robby and his family join us here at the University of Illinois,” Bielema said in a statement. “He will touch our program in many different ways working with our tight ends, specialists and coordinating our special teams overall. He has proven to have success in every place he has been. I am excited to see and feel his impact here in our program.”
Discher replaces Sean Snyder, who held the role of special teams coordinator for Illinois in 2022.
Snyder was a late addition to Bielema’s staff after former special teams coordinator and tight end coach Ben Miller was diagnosed with colon cancer before the 2022 season. A combination of Illinois assistant coaches helped coach the tight ends last season in Miller’s absence, and Bielema said in early February Miller would transition into an analyst role within the program as he continues his fight against cancer.
Discher is the fourth new assistant coach Illinois has hired this offseason, joining outside linebackers coach/pass rush coordinator Charlie Bullen, defensive backs coach Antonio Fenelus and running backs coach Thad Ward.
Aaron Henry coached the Illini secondary the last two seasons, but he was promoted to defensive coordinator by Bielema once Purdue hired Ryan Walters, the Illinois defensive coordinator the last two seasons, to become the Boilermakers’ new coach. Former Illini assistants Kevin Kane and Cory Patterson joined Walters’ staff at Purdue, while Ward is in his second stint coaching at Illinois after previously working with the Illini from 2016-18 under Lovie Smith.
Illinois is the fourth program for Discher in the last four seasons. The Kansas City, Mo., native was at Tulane last season as the Green Wave finished 12-2 with a win against Southern Cal in the Cotton Bowl.
Discher spent the 2021 season at Georgia, working as a quality control coach for special teams as the Bulldogs went 14-1 and won the national championship.
Prior to his one-year stint at Georgia, Discher was the special teams coordinator at Louisiana in 2020 when the Ragin’ Cajuns finished 10-1 and won the First Responder Bowl.
Before he ventured to Louisiana, Discher was the special teams coordinator and tight ends coach for four seasons at Toledo from 2016-19. His time with the Rockets and coach Jason Candle was his first FBS assistant coaching job after he spent two seasons working at Oklahoma State in 2014 and 2015 as a graduate assistant. Prior to his time at Oklahoma State, Discher was a graduate assistant and eventual special teams coordinator at Sam Houston State from 2010-13.
Discher played college football at William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo., and was a wide receiver with the Cardinals from 2006-08. He will now look to build upon last season, where Illinois ranked 13th in the Big Ten in net punting, sixth in field goal accuracy (21 of 26 for 81 percent) and ninth in both kickoff returns and punt returns. Tip Reiman, who led the Illini tight ends with 19 receptions for 174 yards and one touchdown last season, returns for the 2023 season. Michael Marchese (nine receptions for 142 yards, two TDs) and Luke Ford (10 catches for 88 yards) were the other two tight ends Illinois frequently used last season, but Marchese is out of eligibility after playing six seasons and Ford, after five seasons in college, declared for the NFL in late December.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to join Coach Bielema’s staff at the University of Illinois,” Discher said. “During the interview process, I could sense the togetherness amongst the staff. I could sense a real passion to win championships. I could sense a group of winners within the facility starting at the top with Coach Bielema. My wife, Erin, and our kids — Connor, Sydney, and Quinn — cannot wait to get to Champaign.”