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QUOTABLES: Rod Smith’s first press conference as interim head coach

Here’s what interim head coach Rod Smith and Jake Hansen had to say.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Illinois Michael Allio-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in five years, the weekly football press conference did not feature Lovie Smith. Smith has been relieved of his duties after five seasons as head coach and Rod Smith is now the acting Illini football head coach.

Here’s what the new interim head coach had to say:

On the coaching change:

  • Jimmy Lindsey will be calling the defense. (Smith also mentioned Dylan Roney will take over as defensive ends coach, Carson Hall will be linebackers coach, Ilir Emini will work with the safeties and Mike DiAngelo is stepping in as quarterback coach)
  • It is emotional, it’s a roller coaster.
  • I met with the team this morning and told them we’re here for them.
  • It’s all about the student-athletes.
  • Any time that type of conversation happens, there is shock. There is disappointment. All of the above.
  • You’re responsible for all 120 instead of just your side of the football.
  • I’d love the opportunity to be a head coach, it’s always been a lifelong dream of mine.

On Lovie Smith:

  • I’m honored and it’s been such a blessing to have been able to work with Lovie Smith.
  • First-class guy. First-class coach.
  • I’m forever indebted to Lovie Smith, for the opportunity to come in and run a whole offense.

On the upcoming game against Penn State:

  • I think we found out yesterday, started prepping them yesterday.
  • You treat this as your bowl game.

On recruiting:

  • For the guys that have been committed, you have a real conversation with them.
  • You try to reassure them that everything they agreed to the first time is still here.
  • The opportunity to get a good education and play good football is still here.

Smith wasn’t the only one who met the media Monday. Here’s what senior linebacker Jake Hansen had to say:

On the coaching change:

  • Lots of disappointment, sad, frustrated.
  • College football is a major business, it's about money and production and we weren’t productive enough under Coach Smith.
  • You try to keep everyone as locked in as you can.
  • [Rod] got me fired up to play Penn State.

On Lovie Smith:

  • I still will stand behind Coach Smith, I think he’s a phenomenal coach.
  • Coach Smith is family, I owe everything to him.
  • He’ll continue to move on and still do great things.
  • I couldn't thank him enough.
  • I think I learned a lot from a great coach.

On the ups and downs of the season:

  • I didn’t commit to Illinois for a coach.
  • It’s about playing football.
  • It definitely adds a big challenge (to this last week).
  • We’re lucky enough to be playing football.
  • You’re playing for each other... you’re playing for the University of Illinois.
  • It’s bigger than playing for a coach.