CHAMPAIGN - Illini coach Lovie Smith is welcoming some in and showing others the exits.
As Louisville confirmed on Wednesday, former Cardinals offensive coordinator Garrick McGee will fill the same role for Illinois, the school announced on Friday.
Also, several sources confirmed to IlliniInquirer.com that former Smith has dismissed former Illini assistants Mike Bellamy, Jeff Hecklinski, Tim McGarigle, A.J. Ricker and Al Seamonson. Bellamy (wide receivers) and Seamonson (outside linebackers) had spent the last three years as Illinois assistants. Hecklinski, McGarigle, and Ricker had just joined the Illini staff in January.
Offensive coordinator Ryan Cubit was dismissed last Saturday along with his father Bill, the head coach. Defensive coordinator Mike Phair, who served under Smith with the Bears and Buccaneers, reportedly will stay on as defensive line coach. The News-Gazette reports defensive backs coach Paul Williams also may stay on the staff, which he joined in January.
Sources told IlliniInquirer.com that running backs coach Nathan Scheelhaase is under consideration for a support staff role. The former four-year starting quarterback joined the Illini staff in May as assistant director of football operations and was promoted in August to fill the coaching vacancy left after Tim Beckman's dismissal.
McGee spent four seasons as offensive coordinator under Bobby Petrino at Louisville (2014-15) and Arkansas (2011-12) and was head coach at UAB from 2013-14. He joins the Illini to 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.
“My relationship with Garrick McGee goes back to when I recruited him to Arizona State, and have maintained that friendship as he has risen through the college ranks and become one of the top offensive coaches in the nation,” Smith said in a statement. “We are fortunate to have him run the Illini offense, and our fans should be excited, because we’ll showcase an exciting brand of football.”
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. Terms of the contract were not yet known.
On Thursday, Illinois announced Smith's first official hire: offensive line coach Luke Butkus. The Illinois alumnus returns to the Illini, where he played from 1997-2002 and served as the Illini offensive line coach in 2012, after three seasons as the Jacksonville Jaguars assistant offensive line coach. Butkus, the nephew of Illini legend Dick Butkus, served on Smith's Chicago Bears staff from 2007-09.
Four-time Pro Bowl linebacker Hardy Nickerson, who spent the last two seasons as Smith's linebackers coach in Tampa, reportedly will be the Illini defensive coordinator. Colts assistant to the head coach Andrew Hayes-Stoker, who spent the last two seasons as Smith's wide receivers coach in Tampa, is expected to join Smith's staff as well.