Mike Schultz Eager To Get Started

It is now official. Mike Schultz has been named Offensive Coordinator for the Fighting Illini football team. He replaces Mike Locksley, who was named head coach at New Mexico. Schultz has extensive background as an offensive coordinator at Texas Christian University, and he spoke to the media to discuss his new roll at Illinois.

Mike Schultz served 11 years as offensive coordinator at TCU. He coached quarterbacks the past two seasons after spending the previous 9 years with his running backs. Under Schultz' tutelage, TCU set a season record for total points and touchdowns this past season. He looks forward to joining the Illinois staff.

"I'm really excited about having this opportunity to come to the University of Illinois. I think Ron Zook is just a great guy to work with, and I'm excited about the things he's done at Illinois, the opportunity that's been given to me, and the possibilities of what it could become."

Schultz was asked what attracted Illinois coach Ron Zook and him to each other.

"Coach Zook has a national reputation. He is a high energy guy, and I'm a high energy guy. He's an aggressive recruiter, and so am I. He also has a national reputation to be a great defensive coach when he was a defensive coordinator.

"I'm not a young guy but a veteran guy. When you've been around as long as I have, you've checked with people. Coach Zook's background is impeccable. I think we had some mutual friends when this thing started off he and I had a lot of respect for. We were very fortunate to get hooked up.

"Timing and opportunity has a lot to do with everything you do in coaching. Right now is the right time, and it's a great opportunity for me and my family. I'm excited about having the opportunity to be in the Big 10. I just thought this was the right time for me to go and do something different."

Coach Zook has a reputation on the defensive side of the ball, and so does TCU head coach Gary Patterson. So Mike anticipates a similar relationship with Zook that he had with Patterson.

"That situation is very familiar to me. Gary Patterson is extremely involved with the defense at TCU, so I'm comfortable in that situation. Ron will have his hand firmly entrenched in every aspect of our football program, and I'm sure he will give me guidance on the things he would like. Our philosophies are very much the same. I think it's gonna be a great working situation for both of us."

Zook has stated frequently that new coaches coming in must use his system and not their own. Fortunately, TCU and Illinois have similar offensive styles.

"When I watch Illinois' offense, and when I watch our offense, there's a lot of similarities. The language might be a little bit different, but this guy's blocking this guy, you're gonna make the decision whether you're gonna hand off or pull the ball. What they called it and what we called it are two different things, but we're very much in the same area, which is exciting."

Schultz must be careful to keep as much of the language the same so his upperclassmen will have continuity as they prepare for the upcoming season.

"Talking with Coach Zook, we want to keep things as consistent as possible for the guys coming back, Juice and the seniors coming back."

The overall philosophy may be the same, but play-calling emphasis may vary somewhat depending on the situation.

"We do a lot of formations and motions. I like to spread the ball, there's no doubt. But there are times I think you've got to bunch it up and run the ball. What we've done at TCU is use a tremendous amount of formations and try to create mismatches and advantages from movement and motion to give us either angles or numbers one way or another."

Mike just celebrated his 51st birthday, but he's had no chance to savor it. He is still moving out of his old office in preparation for his move to Illinois. He hasn't had time to watch film of his new players, but what he knows so far sounds promising to him.

"I haven't had time to look at a lot of film. What I know about Juice (Williams) is what I've seen on ESPN. He does a lot of great things with the ball and has a huge upside. He's a veteran guy, he's been through the fire quite a bit, and I'm excited about the opportunity to work with him. And I understand there are several quality receivers there. I'm excited to work with the receivers and Juice."

Mike isn't certain what position players he will be coaching on the offense. That will be decided in upcoming meetings.

"I've coached quarterbacks the last couple years, I've coordinated from the running backs position, I've coached tight ends, I've coached receivers. The only position I haven't coached is offensive line. I'm comfortable coaching any position on offense right now."

Bringing in a veteran guy from the state of Texas might open up new recruiting venues for the Illini.

"Mike Schultz and recruiting in Texas kind of go hand in hand," Schultz says. "I've been involved in recruiting this state for the last 20 years. I've recruited most of it. Realistically, coming in from Illinois we'll have to make some decisions on where we will anchor in on.

"There's a lot of football players in this state. Wisconsin has come in here and got football players, so has Purdue. I'm fairly confident we'll be able to come in and get into the Texas recruiting and get some good kids out of here.

"I have not been involved with any of the recruiting meetings right now. From what I understand, they are well involved with the 2009 class. I'm not sure right now what they have available and what's out there. No doubt, I will be involved talking with some of the kids in the 2009 class, and I think some of our focus will be shifted to the 2010 class."

With today's announcement that Eric Wolford is leaving Illinois to become offensive line coach at South Carolina, Schultz was asked if he will be involved in finding a replacement.

"I've been on the job about 6 hours now officially. I trust Ron Zook. I wouldn't be there if I didn't trust Ron Zook. I know he's gonna do the very best for our program. If he wants my input, I will offer it. If he has somebody he's very comfortable with, I'm good with that. I'm sure Coach Zook will have this situation figured out very quickly."

Moving to Illinois after so many years in one place will pose unique challenges for Mike Schultz, but he is ready for it.

"Change can be very healthy, but it can be scary at times. Being 11 years in one spot is a long time for a football coach. I'm treading into some new waters. I'm excited about it. I'm getting this going one day at a time."

Illini Inquirer Top Stories