Mallory Out As Defensive Coordinator

Ron Zook decided it was time for the Fighting Illini to make a change at the Defensive Coordinator position on his coaching staff, and Defensive Coordinator Mike Mallory agreed. On Sunday the Champaign News-Gazette reported the mutual parting of the ways between Illinois and Mallory.

After rumors started swirling on earlier in the week, the Bob Asmussen of the Champaign News-Gazette confirmed that Mike Mallory was no longer going to be the Defensive Coordinator at the University of Illinois. The News-Gazette quoted Illinois Head Coach Ron Zook as stating the decision was a "mutual thing where we feel we needed to make a change." According to Asmussen, one strong option is to promote current graduate assistant Joe Cullen to full-time status.

While he was just a graduate assistant at Illinois, Cullen is well thought of by Ron Zook and has been a Defensive Coordinator at Indiana, so he has the experience needed to lead a Big Ten defense. There is one black mark against Cullen though: he was reprimanded by Indiana in 2003 for slapping Indiana linebacker Herana-Daze Jones on the side of his helmet. After the incident, Cullen told the Indianapolis Star that he "was just trying to get him a little fired up in the red zone."

Whoever replaces Mallory as Illinois' Defensive Coordinator, he will be inheriting a defense that has struggled for the better part of three seasons to keep the opposing team off the scoreboard. In the 2005 season, Illinois ranked last in the Big Ten in numerous defensive categories including:
  • Points Against: 39.5 points per game
  • Turnover Margin: -1 per game
  • Rushing Defense: 234.0 yards per game
  • Sacks By: 11 all season
  • Opponent Third Down Conversions: 50.7%
The Illini have struggled to find a consistent defensive attack since Ron Turner replaced Lou Tepper at Illinois in 1997. Ron Zook took over the job in Champaign needing to completely rebuild the program, and outside of bringing in more talent through recruiting, the other way in which the defense can improve is through the hiring of a new defensive coordinator.

The Champaign News-Gazette is reporting that Mike Mallory is heading to the coaches convention that started on Sunday in Dallas to look for a new job. The rumor is still around that Mallory could become the next defensive coordinator at Indiana, a place where his father, Bill Mallory, is still the program's winningest football coach of all time.

There are not expected to be any other chances in the Illini coaching staff this off-season.

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