New Illini head coach Bret Bielema has announced a few additions to his coaching staff. Tony Petersen will be joining the team as Offensive Coordinator, and Bart Miller will join the staff as the offensive line coach.
As for player personnel, Brandon Peters will be returning for the 2021 season, while Kendrick Green’s next stop is the NFL.
Petersen first coaching domino to fall
Late Monday night the news broke that Petersen will be joining Bret Bielema’s staff as offensive coordinator.
Petersen was the offensive mastermind behind the Illini giving up 35 points in the 2014 Heart of Dallas Bowl when Illinois lost to Louisiana Tech.
Coaching for north of 30 years, Petersen has spent eight of his seasons in the Big Ten as well as journeying across the MAC, Conference USA, American and Sun Belt as an offensive coordinator.
“I loved it the eight years I was in it,” Petersen said. “If you had to ask me, I’m a Big Ten type of guy.”
Most recently, Petersen anchored an Appalachian State offense that ranked in the top-ten in the country running the ball.
As for the type of offense Petersen will run, he mentioned the spread — without giving too much away.
“We’re going to show a lot of eye candy on some stuff. It’s going to be a modern-day type of spread look,” Petersen said. “But it’s not going to be out of 10 personnel where we have four wide receivers out there.
“We’re going to come in here and we’re going to put together our offense: Illinois’ offense.”
After watching some film, the new offensive coordinator said he was impressed with Mike Epstein and Chase Brown, a duo that formed a two-headed monster in the backfield in 2020.
“Those two running backs looked pretty good on what I watched this morning,” he said.
As for the quarterbacks room — which now has both Peters and Isaiah Williams in it again — Petersen committed to the position’s production in general.
“I’m gonna do everything I can to make things right for the quarterback spot,” Petersen said.
In addition to Peters, Petersen will be getting multiple offensive pieces back as well.
“I love having a bunch of veterans & seniors coming back.”
But the bottom line from Petersen: he thought he was the right guy for the job.
“I’m fired up.”
Peters to return for 2021, Green declares for draft
New OC/quarterback coach Tony Petersen will have a loaded quarterback room on his staff.
Peters announced Tuesday that he will be returning for his third season with Illinois.
Biggest upset in #Illini history— Illinois Football (@IlliniFootball) December 29, 2020
Biggest comeback in #Illini history
21 passing TDs, 4 rushing TDs
Led the #Illini to 2019 Redbox Bowl
Back for more in 2021. pic.twitter.com/2SBAW5Nzpp
For Peters, who spent the first two years of his career with Jim Harbaugh at Michigan, he will be spending his sixth collegiate season in Champaign due to the COVID-19 eligibility rule.
The grad-transfer mentioned that Petersen’s offense will be the sixth or seventh he has learned in his career.
“I’m going to be a very educated guy by the time I’m done with college football,” Peters joked.
The starting quarterback job is not one that will just be handed to Peters — not with a new head coach, offensive coordinator and the emergence of Isaiah Williams down the stretch in 2020.
Williams started the Illini’s first win against Rutgers while Peters was sidelined with COVID-19, and set the single game record for rushing yards for an Illini QB.
Williams ended up playing in six games — Peters in five — and threw for 393 yards, four touchdowns and added 389 yards on the ground and an additional score as a dual threat QB.
“Nothing’s guaranteed. I’m going to have to come in and compete,” Peters said. “I know I’m going to have to compete and go win the job.”
As for the offensive line, Peters is glad to have some of the high ranked O-line back.
“I wish [Kendrick Green] wouldn’t have left, but he’s got to do what’s best for him,” Peters said. “But we got some great ones coming back.”
Green announced he will be heading to the NFL Draft on Tuesday.
Forever grateful... pic.twitter.com/rO85OtFMnt— Kendrick J. Green (@The_fridge53) December 29, 2020
Green was a consensus All-Big Ten First Team after his junior year and was rated as the third-highest guard in the country.
Bart Miller joins staff as O-line coach
One testament of Bret Bielema’s Wisconsin teams was the commitment to the run and an emphasis on the guys up front making it happen. Those teams often had offensive linemen and running backs turn pro — and Miller was a huge part of that in Wisconsin, and will join Illinois now, hoping to do the same.
“We developed those [Badgers] to make them better, they lived in the weight room,” Miller said. “They did things that other people were not willing to do.”
Miller spent time under Bielema at Wisconsin, and has since been around. Most recently, he had been offensive line coach and Offensive Run-Game Coordinator at Wyoming for the last two seasons.
Despite not having Green next season, Miller will be getting Alex Palczewski, Doug Kramer and Vederian Lowe back for another year in 2021.
“I’m very excited, very excited to work with these guys,” Miller said.
As for the philosophy in general, Miller even fired me up.
“It’s five guys working together efficiently to dominate your opponent,” Miller said. “There has to be trust in that unit, dependability.”