CHAMPAIGN — Terrance Jamison has spent several years playing on or working for teams that directly oppose Illinois football.
He was a Wisconsin defensive lineman between 2005 and 2007. On the Badgers’ coaching staff for four seasons during two separate stints — 2008-09 and 2011-12. And Purdue’s defensive line coach in 2020.
Jamison might not know all of the Illini’s inner workings, but he’s certainly familiar with the program. And has competed against Illinois on the recruiting trail during his time on staffs at Florida Atlantic and Texas Tech.
Now, the Illinois native will get to help the Illini directly as the new defensive line coach under Bret Bielema.
“There’s always going to be great talent here — guys that can play at a high level, that you can win championships with,” Jamison said. “That’s definitely going to continue to be consistent.”
After spending one season on Jeff Brohm’s staff at Purdue staff, Jamison officially joined Bielema’s staff on Monday. Along with his time coaching at Wisconsin, Florida Atlantic, Texas Tech and Purdue, the Thornton Township High School graduate has also spent time at California and Air Force.
“We have family … here in Champaign, and obviously a relationship with Coach Bielema,” Jamison said of he, wife Ashley and their three children. “This was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. I wouldn’t have this start in my career if it wasn’t for Coach Bielema, so just a great opportunity.”
Jamison said he was recruited by Illinois in high school, but he committed to the Badgers when the Illini were going through a coaching change from Ron Turner to Ron Zook.
Bielema was Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator in 2004 when Jamison was a high school senior and left an indelible impression on the teenager that stays with him to this day.
“I remember him coming by my house, to my small apartment, sitting down with me and my family,” Jamison said. “Just right away you knew the swagger he had and the knowledge and the expertise. It was just obvious, and it just clicked right away.”
After knee injuries ended Jamison’s Wisconsin career in 2007, he turned to a profession he hadn’t previously considered.
“I’d never thought about being a coach,” Jamison said. “I was just thankful and blessed to not only work for (Bielema) as a student assistant coach, but also the time invested that he took. He saw something in me that he thought could grow, and I really appreciate that.”
Jamison is taking over a defensive line that will return seniors Jamal Woods and Isaiah Gay for an extra year, with both accepting that NCAA-offered option in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Contributors like Seth Coleman, Keith Randolph Jr., Calvin Avery, Johnny Newton, Bryce Barnes and Deon Pate also will return, while Roderick Perry II and Marc Mondesir both have to make an eligibility decision. Owen Carney Jr., the Illini’s sack leader in 2020, has entered the transfer portal.
“Defensive linemen, naturally, are just physical players, tough football players, and here at Illinois that’s who we have,” Jamison said. “We have guys that are tough, that love football, that are physical.”
Jamison said he’s already reached out to all of his new players and plans to speak with their parents, as well. It’s part of what Jamison feels he best brings to the table as a coach.
“I care for my guys. I loved the game as a player, and so I don’t want those guys to lose that love and passion that they have for the game,” Jamison said. “I expect to have guys that love football and that are tough, fundamentally sound and smart. So that’s what we’re going to have.”
Jamison also has a past working relationship with Illini tight ends coach Ben Miller, whose hire was announced the same day as Jamison’s. Miller spent the last 14 years as an Air Force assistant coach.
Jamison also wasn’t asfamiliar with Illinois defensive coordinator Ryan Walters, who also was hired this month away from Missouri. But the two already have formed a bond.
“It’s instant,” Jamison said. “Coach Bielema does a great job of putting together a staff. He creates an environment for winning. He’s very thoughtful in that process.”
Jamison didn’t know that he’d initially be part of that staff, even when he reached out with a congratulatory text message upon Illinois hiring Bielema on Dec. 19.
“I always believe in growing where you’re planted. ... I don’t look to jump from where I’m at,” Jamison said. “But it was a great opportunity for Coach, and I was excited for him. I’m excited that he reached out and I had the opportunity to join him.”