Change Coming on The Football Staff

The contract of Dino Dawson, the Illinois wide receivers coach for the past two seasons, has not been renewed for the 2007 season. An official announcement that the change has been made could come as early as Monday of this week.

Dawson, who came in with Ron Zook's initial staff before the 2005 season, had logged numerous seasons as an assistant coach in the Midwest, with stops at Illinois State (1993), Bowling Green ('94-2000), Toledo (‘01) and Cincinnati ('02-'03) before coaching at Tuskeegee in the state of Alabama for one year before coming to Champaign.

As Dawson moves on, Zook and offensive coordinator Mike Locksley already have begun their pursuit of his replacement. Zook hopes to have that coach in place in time for the beginning of spring practice three weeks from now, but believes the hire is so important that getting the right guy means far more than getting it done quickly.

Zook will not discuss the change until the official announcement is made. But it is clear that improving the play of the wide receivers is one of the most important goals the team faces this year. Although freshman quarterback Juice Williams struggled at times last year – as do most true freshman quarterbacks – the struggles with dropped passes hampered the team throughout the season and was a particular hot button for Zook.

For that reason, Zook and Locksley have considered pursuing a number of proven, veteran receivers coaches to help develop a still young corps of receivers.

NOTES – With still nearly a month of off-season workouts remaining before spring, strength coaches haven't done testing for improvements in strength, speed or size yet. But the buzz around the weight room is that Lou Hernandez and his troops may be having their best pre-spring training season yet. We'll have adjusted numbers for you the week before spring drills begin. … Zook recently returned from a weeklong getaway with his wife, Denise, and all of the other Nike-sponsored head coaches across the country and their wives, to a resort in Mexico. He made it back in time Friday night to join a number of his assistants as guest speakers at various high school clinics in Chicago over the weekend. … Speaking of the receiver coach position, don't be surprised if the list of candidates for the job is extremely impressive. Whoever comes in gets a corps of young talent that will include Regis Benn, Derrick McPhearson, Chris James, Joe Morgan, Anthony Morris and others. Zook and Locks already have put out feelers and the level of interest is extremely encouraging, particularly since this is not typically the time of year people make moves. … For those who set calendars for such things, the Illinois spring game will be April 21. With Juice and the other young receivers having a playing season under their belt and Eddie McGee having a redshirt season behind him and his first chance to let it fly with fans watching, this could be the most interesting spring game in Champaign in many years.

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