Lovie Smith’s staff is losing one of its key assistants to the NFL, according to a report.
Defensive line coach Austin Clark is taking a job with the Miami Dolphins.
Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network tweeted out the news on Thursday morning, saying Clark will coach outside linebackers with the Dolphins.
Clark just completed his second year on the Illinois staff and at 29, was one of the youngest assistant coaches in the Big Ten.
He came to Illinois prior to the 2018 season after working as a graduate assistant at Southern Cal.
The native of Tampa, Fla., spent six seasons as a player at Cal.
He competed against his alma mater in the Dec. 30 Redbox Bowl, which the Bears won 35-20.
Considered a strong recruiter, Clark was credited with helping to lure graduate transfers from Southern Cal to Illinois before the 2019 season, like receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe, defensive end Oluwole Betiku Jr. and receiver Trevon Sidney.
Whoever Smith hires as Clark’s replacement will have heavy lifting to do. The defensive line got hit hard by graduation, losing starters Jamal Milan and Tymir Oliver, along with Kenyon Jackson along the interior of the line.
Calls to Clark were not immediately returned.
Smith has often said in the past that he encourages his assistant coaches to pursue other opportunities as they become available.
Clark is the fourth assistant coach at Illinois under Smith to move on to the NFL. Tim McGarigle was Illinois' linebackers coach in 2016 before spending the 2017 season as a defensive quality control coach with the Green Bay Packers. He only spent the 2017 season with the Packers before spending the last two seasons coaching linebackers at Northwestern.
Mike Phair, Smith's defensive line coach his first two seasons at Illinois, joined the Indianapolis Colts' staff after the 2017 season and just wrapped up his second season coaching the defensive line with the Colts.
Luke Butkus, Smith's offensive line coach his first three seasons at Illinois, left the Illini after the 2018 season and is in his first season as an assistant offensive line coach with the Packers.