Louisville offensive coordinator Garrick McGee reportedly joining Lovie Smith's Illini staff

Louisville offensive coordinator and former Lovie Smith staffers reportedly joining new Illini coach in Champaign

CHAMPAIGN - Illinois athletics director Josh Whitman allocated an unprecedented $4 million salary pool for his new football coach Lovie Smith to spend on a staff. Smith is putting that to quick use.

Illinois will hire Louisville offensive coordinator Garrick McGee for the same role. ESPN's Adam Rittenberg first reported the news and Louisville confirmed it with a statement from head coach Bobby Petrino.

"I wish Garrick McGee and his family nothing but the best and I am grateful for his friendship and commitment," Petrino said. "I've known him for a long time and I'm going to miss him as a person and a coach. He did a great job wherever we have coached together and I think he has a great football mind. I know it was a difficult decision for him because he's had such a close relationship with Lovie Smith, and he feels like this is the right move for him. I wish him nothing but success and I am grateful for his dedication through the years."

Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel reports that San Francisco 49ers linebackers coach Hardy Nickerson will be the Illini defensive coordinator. FootballScoop.com on Tuesday had reported Nickerson, a five-time Pro Bowl linebacker in the NFL, was Smith's priority target for defensive coordinator. Nickerson was linebackers coach for Smith for two seasons in Tampa.

McGee, who has spent six seasons under Bobby Petrino, will now spread his wings and fully control his own offense. The move also allows him to reunite with Smith, who recruited McGee to Arizona State in the early 1990s. Oklahoma pursued McGee for the same role last season, but he turned it down and received a $200,000 raise at Louisville.

Smith, a defensive-focused coach, likely will let McGee basically serve as the head coach of the offense. McGee, who made $850,000 annually at Louisville, likely is set to become the Illini's highest paid assistant coach in program history and one of the highest-paid Big Ten assistants.

Soures told IlliniInquirer.com that McGee was Smith's top target as offensive coordinator with former Packers and Texas A&M head coach Mike Sherman and former Stanford and Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton also earning consideration.

McGee's Louisville offenses have shown a lot of balance. Last year, the Cardinals finished fifth among 14 ACC teams in total yardage per game (416), averaging 245.1 yards per game through the air and 171.0 on the ground. The Cardinals averaged 28.7 points per game.

Prior to joining Petrino at Louisville, McGee was the head coach at UAB, where he struggled to a 5-19 record (3-13 Conference USA).

McGee runs a pro-style scheme with a lot of heavy formations but does elect to pass the ball a lot, as he did in two seasons as the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Arkansas under Petrino. With quarterback Ryan Mallett at the helm, the Razorbacks finished eighth in the nation in total yardage (489 per game), fourth in passing offense and 14th in scoring offense (37.1 ppg).

Garrick McGee's offense by national ranks

Year Total offense Passing offense Rush offense Scoring offense
2015 Louisville 53rd 46th 64th 65th
2014 Louisville 72 47 95 53
2013 UAB 80 81 52 83
2012 UAB 53 20 112 67
2011 Arkansas 29 13 81 15
2010 Arkansas 9 4 69 15

Sports Illustrated reported Tuesday that Smith will also bring in Andrew Hayes-Stoker as wide receivers coach and Luke Butkus as offensive line coach.

Hayes-Stoker, who had just joined the Colts as assistant to the head coach, worked with Smith for both the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He served Smith's staff in Chicago from 2006-12 and spent the last two seasons as the Bucs wide receivers coach.

Butkus returns to his alma mater, where  played from 1997-2001 (three seasons alongside Whitman). He coached one season on Tim Beckman's Illini staff before leaving for the Jaguars, where he has served as assistant offensive line coach -- the same role Butkus held under Lovie Smith from 2007-10 with the Chicago Bears.

The Chicago Tribune reported Illinois defensive coordinator Mike Phair will remain on the Illini staff but as the defensive line coach. Phair has great familiarity with Smith, serving on his staffs for seven years in Chicago and Tampa.

Reported Illini staff

  • Head coach: Lovie Smith
  • Offensive coordinator/QB coach: Garrick McGee
  • Defensive coordinator/LB coach: Hardy Nickerson
  • WRs coach: Andrew Hayes-Stoker
  • OL coach: Luke Butkus
  • DL coach: Mike Phair

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