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Illinois makes 2 defensive staff hires

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Lovie gives his son a bigger role on the defense.

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Illinois Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois has made two coaching hires on the defensive side of the ball. Illinois head coach Lovie Smith promoted his son, Miles, to the Linebackers Coach opening on the Illini's staff on Saturday, and Keynodo Hudson was hired from FAU to be the cornerbacks coach.

Miles Smith

Miles Smith spent the 2018 season as the Illini’s defensive backs coach after the abrupt departure of Donnie Abraham in August. The youngest son of Lovie, Miles spent two years with his dad as a defensive quality control coach on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers staff in 2014 and ‘15 before joining on with the Illinois staff as a graduate assistant.

Smith graduated from Lake Forest College in Lake Forest, Illinois, while his dad was still the head coach of the Chicago Bears.

Some fans may be reminded of the nepotism that led to Ryan Cubit being named the offensive coordinator for the Illini when his father, Bill Cubit, was the interim head coach, but those concerns may be a tad over-exaggerated. It’s not uncommon for college coaches to hire their children to lower staff positions, but it was uncommon for Ryan Cubit to get the second-most important coaching job on the staff, coming after only ever coaching for his father. Miles Smith has also only ever coached under his father, but there's a world of difference between being named linebackers coach and offensive coordinator. Ryan Cubit has not had a coaching job since being fired in 2016 by Illinois.

Let’s be clear. This is not good for Illinois, and we aren’t defending this hire. Illinois could have and should have done better, but this hire is not as big of a deal as some are making it out to be. With Miles Smith on staff last season, Illinois was still able to pull in their best recruiting class in years. Smith coached DBs who did show some improvement over the course of the season, while having to deal with several injuries.

Fans also have to realize a few things. This is not a good job for a coach to take. The Illinois Football staff could all be gone after next season if things go belly up. Illinois also seemingly doesn’t have that much money to spend on the posistion coaches as we were once told — though the same things could be said about the next coach we will talk about to be fair. It seems that this hire may have been GA hire vs. Miles Smith, not established college linebackers coach vs. Miles Smith.

So overall, Illinois fans should be concerned about this hire. It either points to Illinois not being able to attract a better candidate or not trying very hard to do so. But if the Lovie Smith era ends with his firing, it won’t be because of Miles Smith.

Keynodo Hudson

Keynodo Hudson is the second addition to the coaching staff as a cornerbacks coach. Hudson spent the last two years as the defensive backs coach at FAU under head coach Lane Kiffin. Before that Hudson spent 2011-16 as a defensive administrative assistant at USC, where he mainly helped with recruiting. Current Illinois defensive line coach Austin Clark was on the same USC staff as Hudson in 2016.

This is the exact type of hire that Illinois needed. After the departure of Thad Ward to Temple, keeping the Florida connections for the Illini was key, and Hudson — a Florida native and former high school coach in the Sunshine State — brings exactly that to Illinois.

Hudson has some connections to Lovie Smith through the Kiffins. Lane Kiffin of course is the son of legendary defensive coach Monte Kiffin, who served as a mentor to Lovie Smith in Tampa Bay. Monte Kiffin now serves as an analyst for FAU.

Illinois’ defensive staff is now full, and Lovie Smith will be taking over defensive coordinator and defensive play-calling duties. Gill Byrd retains his same title as defensive passing game coordinator.

Lovie took over those responsibilities in 2018 after the departure of then-defensive coordinator Hardy Nickerson.

The Illini still have one open positions on its staff, the spot vacated by Thad Ward leaving for Temple.

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