CHAMPAIGN — Lovie Smith has had changes to his coaching staff after each of his first four seasons in charge of the Illinois football program.
The trend continued on Friday, with a respected assistant coach and longtime friend of Smith leaving the program, while two new assistant coaches were added to the program.
Illinois defensive passing game coordinator and safeties coach Gill Byrd is stepping away from the Illini, the school announced Friday evening.
“The Byrd family loves the Smith family,” Byrd said in a statement. “As Christians, my wife and I have always functioned under the principle that you finish what you started. Because of the priority that God places on the family and because of an illness in our family, we believe our time is up here in Champaign-Urbana. I would like to thank Lovie and everyone at the University of Illinois for the great time we’ve had while in Champaign-Urbana. The future is bright for both the Byrds and the University of Illinois football program.”
Byrd, a former standout cornerback with the San Diego Chargers who had a 10-year NFL playing career, arrived at Illinois prior to the 2018 season.
He had assistant-coaching stints in the NFL with the St. Louis Rams, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Buffalo Bills. He was paid $300,000 in 2019 and was scheduled to get raises in 2020 ($445,000) and 2021 ($550,000).
“Gill Byrd is like a brother to me,” Smith said in a statement. “We have coached together at four different stops and he has had an incredible influence on the teams and players at each place he’s been. As good a coach as he is on the field, Gill is even a better person. I hope for nothing but the best for Gill and his family. We will miss him greatly around our program.”
Keynodo Hudson, who coached cornerbacks at Illinois for the 2019 seasons, will now coach all of the Illini defensive backs in light of Byrd’s departure.
Illinois will replace Austin Clark, the Illini’s defensive line coach the last two seasons, with two individuals. Clark is in line to become the outside linebackers coach with the Dolphins, and filling his void at Illinois will be Alfred Davis and Jimmy Lindsey. Smith announced the addition of those two assistant coaches on Friday, with Davis working with the Illini defensive tackles and Lindsey set to work with Illinois defensive ends.
Davis, who played defensive tackle at Arkansas from 2009-12, comes to Illinois after coaching the past two seasons at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas, where he had been promoted to associate head coach and co-defensive coordinator.
“Coach Davis is a rising star in the coaching world,” Smith said. “The work he has already done at an early age is impressive, and we are getting a high-energy coach who also should be an outstanding recruiter.”
Lindsey played college football at Chattanooga from 1996-99 and spent the last three seasons at Western Kentucky, where he worked with the Hilltoppers’ defensive ends and also served as the program’s recruiting coordinator. Lindsey’s previous coaching stops include Gardner-Webb, Miami (Ohio), Tennessee-Martin, Furman and Georgia Southern. He also has had four NFL minority coaching internships with the Cleveland Browns (2006), Detroit Lions (2008), Denver Broncos (2010) and San Diego Chargers (2013).
“Coach Lindsey has coached some outstanding players during his career and is a proven recruiter at each of his previous coaching stops,” Smith said. “He has a great reputation in coaching edge rushers and comes highly recommended.”