New Illinois defensive line coach Keith Gilmore has many years of experience to draw upon in his new job. He is a veteran of 24 campaigns with various colleges and pro teams. For the past three years, he has worked with Brian Kelly, first at Central Michigan and most recently at Cincinnati. He is familiar with the problems adjusting to a new job.
"It's always hard to replace a good coach where the people have had a great relationship with that guy. My philosophy is, I'm not gonna go in and try to be Coach (Tom) Sims. I'm gonna be Keith Gilmore. I think I bring a lot to the table from an experience standpoint. I'll coach them my way, and I think it will be a good transition. I don't worry about it."
The Detroit native is living a dream by coaching for a Big 10 team.
"I've always wanted to coach in the Big 10. I'm a Midwest guy and grew up with Big 10 football. I know Coach Zook has done a great job bringing in some quality athletes, so it's an opportunity to coach players at a little bit higher level. And his experience intrigued me. He's been in the NFL and a lot of upper level programs. I wanted to tap into that."
As with most college assistant coaches, Keith is upwardly mobile. Whether his future includes a head coaching job, he is ambitious about moving up the ladder.
"At times I want the head coaching responsibility and times I don't. I just want to be the best football coach I can be with whatever role I'm given. Where it leads me, we'll see. But I'm happy coaching young men."
He hasn't had the chance to study his personnel in depth, but he knows the cupboard isn't bare.
"I haven't had the opportunity to evaluate these guys, just a little bit of film, but I know there's some players to work with. I don't think there's a lack of talent here at all."
Gilmore sees himself as someone who balances toughess and respect in his coaching style.
"I'm gonna demand that you perform. I'm gonna demand that you practice hard, but I'm also gonna hug you around the neck and say 'good job.' I do know how to give a compliment and treat the guys with respect."
Since Keith began his career at Michigan State, it is not surprising who he says is his primary role model.
"I've learned from everybody I've worked with. But probably the major influence was George Perles. I was a graduate assistant there at the beginning of my career. Being a defensive guy and a tough nut guy, he was somebody who impressed me.
"I still find myself repeating things that he said. He was a great influence even after I left. I would call him on the phone about various jobs, various techniques, needing recommendations. He was kind of the staple for me."
Brian Kelly has also had a major influence.
"I was on Coach Kelly's original staff when he first became a head coach at Grand Valley. I stayed with him 3-4 years at that time. We won a lot of football games there. And I ventured off to better my own career and got away from him a few years.
"And then we met each other again at the convention 3-4 years ago. He had a job opening at Central Michigan, and it was an opportunity for me to get back closer to home. I had been on the East Coast for 8 or 9 years. It worked out. We won a lot of football games.
"I learned a lot from Coach Kelly. He's a winner, and a lot of that has rubbed off on me. I expect to win, and I think I know how to win."
Keith will be coaching against his former team the last game of the 2009 season as the Illini travel to Cincinnati to take on the Bearcats. His familiarity with them may help Illinois, but he downplays that possibility.
"It's gonna be a different situation going back to where you just left, coaching against your own players and the guys you've worked with. It still comes down to blocking and tackling. You may know a few nuances about a team and have an upper hand in some areas.
"But for the most part, at that point in the season, you and they will have shown pretty much everything you're going to do through the course of the season.
"Coach Kelly is a smart guy, so I'm sure he'll change up a few things. It won't be easy for us. But they're pretty consistent with what they've done, and he's been running that offense for 15 years. So I don't foresee him doing a lot different."
Gilmore has numerous recruiting contacts he can exploit for the Illini.
"In Cincinnati, I recruited the Detroit Metropolitan area, I recruited Washington, D. C. and Maryland, and also in Northwest Ohio. That's where I've been in my career, and that's where you want to go, where you have good relationships and you feel like people will give you an inside track on some guys. I've been successful there because I've been there a long time, and I feel I can continue to do the same things here."