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Based on Lovie Smith’s coaching tree, who could be Illinois’ next offensive coordinator?

Which members of Lovie Smith’s coaching tree would be a good fit for the open Illinois OC position?

Ilinois v Michigan Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

For the seventh time in the last nine football seasons, the Illinois Fighting Illini are shopping for a new offensive coordinator. With names like Schultz, Petrino, Cubit (x2), and McGee filling the role since 2009, the Illini have only finished in the Top 50 in total offense once (2010).

After the news of Garrick McGee’s firing began circulating last Saturday, a handful of names have been brought up as options for the next Illinois offensive coordinator. Names like Eric Morris and Sterlin Gilbert have been passed around, but Lovie Smith has made it known that he’s looking for a pro-style offense that favors the run. While Morris’ (Air-Raid) and Gilbert’s (Spread) schemes are attractive, they don’t fit what Smith is trying to create.

If we take a look at Lovie’s coaching tree, there are a couple of names that would fit the pro-style run game that might be looking for an offensive coordinator position come 2018:

Tim Spencer - Running Backs Coach, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Ohio State Buckeyes RB Coach (‘94-’03), Chicago Bears RB Coach (‘04-’12), Tampa Bay RB Coach (‘14-present)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images

One of the early additions to Lovie Smith’s staff in both Chicago AND Tampa Bay was Tim Spencer as the Running Backs Coach. Helping to produce a top-10 rushing attack in the NFL during multiple seasons, Spencer is a friendly face with 10 years of experience who Lovie could bring in to lead an offense that’s looking to establish a dominating run game.

Spencer played college football at Ohio State in the early 1980s as a running back, and he eventually coached Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George and National Champion Maurice Clarett during his time coaching with the Buckeyes.

Spencer’s family is heavily involved with football, as his sons Cole and Evan have ties to the NFL. Cole Spencer is a college scout with the Washington Redskins front office (with focus on the “midwest region”), and Evan has playing experience as a wide receiver with the Redskins and Buccaneers. If the Illini were to bring Tim Spencer onto Lovie’s staff, don’t be surprised if Cole and Evan’s experience brings them into a recruiting role.

If Lovie Smith wants to bring on a familiar face with proven success at the collegiate and professional level, Tim Spencer is certainly a front-runner.

Rob Boras - Tight Ends Coach, Buffalo Bills

UNLV offensive coordinator (‘01-’03), NFL tight Ends coach (‘04-’15), St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator (‘15-’16), Buffalo Bills tight ends coach (2017-present)
Detroit Lions v St Louis Rams Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images

Rob Boras is the only coach on this list that has been an offensive coordinator at both the collegiate and professional level. Having spent six years under Lovie Smith as tight ends coach of the Chicago Bears from 2004-2009, Boras eventually jumped around from the Jacksonville Jaguars to the St. Louis Rams.

In 2015, Boras moved into the offensive coordinator role for the Rams. His offense was centered around the newly acquired running back Todd Gurley, and it would mirror a scheme that Lovie Smith wants to incorporate with the Illinois offense.

With his hometown in suburban Chicago (Glen Ellyn), Boras might be interested in returning to his home state to work with Lovie Smith once again.

Harold Goodwin - Offensive Coordinator, Arizona Cardinals

Chicago Bears Assistant OL Coach (‘04-’06), Pittsburgh Steelers OL Coach (‘07-’11), Indianapolis Colts OL Coach (2012), Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinater (‘13-present)
Kansas City Chiefs v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

With recent news breaking that the Arizona Cardinals will be parting ways with Head Coach Bruce Arians, there might be a ceremonial “cleaning house” taking place in the offseason for Arizona. One coach on that list is Harold Goodwin, who has three years of coaching experience with Lovie Smith (Chicago from 2004-06).

The reason why Goodwin is an attractive hire for the Illini is his run-first approach to offense, combined with his championship experience in the NFL. Goodwin has coached in three super bowls with three separate teams (Chicago, Pittsburgh, Arizona), along with a handful of bowl games during his time with the Michigan Wolverines, Eastern Michigan Eagles, and Central Michigan Chippewas.

For a “run-minded” coach that has championship experience and a tie to Smith, Harold Goodwin is as good of an option as it gets.

Mike Bajakian - Quarterbacks Coach, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Central Michigan offensive coordinator (‘07-’09), Cincinnati Bearcats offensive coordinator (‘10-’12), Tennessee Volunteers offensive coordinator (‘13-’14), Tampa Bay quarterbacks coach (‘15-present)
Chicago Bears 2006 Headshots

Lovie Smith brought Mike Bajakian onto his Chicago Bears staff in 2004 as an “offensive quality control coach” and began a three year run with the team. Bajakian was then hired by Central Michigan to run Butch Jones’s offense. The Chippewas would finish in the top 10 in total offense twice in the next three seasons, including two MAC Championship victories and three bowl game appearances.

After hiring Butch Jones away from Central Michigan, the Cincinnati Bearcats brought Mike Bajakian along to continue his run as offensive coordinator under Jones. The Bearcats would finish with two 10-win seasons with Jones and Bajakian, before Tennessee hired both to coach in Knoxville in 2013. After two seasons of running the Volunteer’s offense, Bajakian was hired back onto Lovie Smith’s staff in 2015 when Smith became the head coach at Tampa Bay.

With eight seasons of offensive coordinator experience, Bajakian is the most “college experienced” offensive coordinator option on the “Love Smith Coaching Tree.” Then again, he’s used to running more of an “Air-Raid” offense, so he might not be the BEST fit for the Illini moving forward.

Of these four options, who do you think would be the best fit for Illinois?


Of these four options, who do you think would be the best fit in Champaign?

This poll is closed

  • 26%
    Tim Spencer
    (371 votes)
  • 14%
    Rob Boras
    (195 votes)
  • 26%
    Harold Goodwin
    (374 votes)
  • 32%
    Mike Bajakian
    (452 votes)
1392 votes total Vote Now