Faced with one of the most important hires since becoming the Illinois head football coach, Ron Zook tapped former Eastern Kentucky offensive coordinator Kurt Beathard as his new receivers coach, replacinig Dino Dawson.
But the hire did not come before Zook and offensive coordinator Mike Locksley spent a great deal of time narrowing down – and interviewing a number of names from – a very impressive list of candidates.
"This one was very important," Zook said. "They all are. But we all know we need to catch the ball next year. And we know we have some talented young guys there. Kurt is really, really good. He will fit in great with our staff and with our players. But it wasn't easy because we had an awful lot of folks that wanted this job."
Beathard, the son of longtime NFL general manager Bobby Beathard, ultimately got the job for a number of reasons. He has been a coordinator for a long time so he can be of great assistance to Locksley in preparing game plans. And he ran an offense very similar to the one Illinois is running.
He also gives Illinois one more legitimate in-house candidate to become the offensive coordinator when Locksley gets a head job. I say when, not if, because I truly believe that is inevitable. Locksley is a head coach waiting to happen and it could happen at any time.
Most importantly, though, is that of all of the candidates, Zook believes Beathard can make the likes of Regis Benn and Chris James and Joe Morgan and Anthony Morris and Kyle Hudson better right now. And that is what matters most.
"We can't wait to get started with Kurt," Zook said. "And Kurt can't wait to get started. I really believe this is a terrific addition."
So good that he beat out a host of big time candidates.
? Dwayne Dixon. The former wide receivers coach at Florida and N.C. State has more than 10 players taken in the NFL draft – including a number of first rounders. That includes Ike Hilliard, Reidel Anthony, Darrell Jackson and Travis Taylor from Florida, plus Jericho Cotchery and others from N.C. State.
? Darrell Wyatt. Wyatt was the receivers coach with the Minnesota Vikings last year and had an offer to join Mike Tomlin with the Steelers, but wanted to get back to college coaching. The former Oklahoma receivers coach who coached Mark Clayton, Mark Bradley and others wound up at Arizona.
? Greg Peterson. He is the tights end coach and recruiting coordinator at Washington State and probably finished second for the Illinois job. Zook really liked this guy – brought him to Champaign for an interview – but in the end like Beathard just a little better.
? Aubrey Hill. Hill is a former player for Steve Spurrier at Florida that went on to become the wide receivers coach at Duke and most recently Pittsburgh, under Dave Wannstadt. Hill is loved by Wannstadt who would have worked hard to keep him, but Hill would have been interested.
There are many others who, like these guys, really wanted to come to Champaign. Who doesn't want to coach Benn and CJ and the others with Juice throwing to them? But these four probably got the most consideration. All would have been very, very good. Which is why Zook and Locksley feel so good about Beathard, a guy they think will be a star.
The Hiring of Kurt Beathard
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