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Illinois extends DC Ryan Walters through 2024

A brilliant move by the Illini.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: APR 19 Orange and Blue Spring Game Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Bret Bielema is making sure one of his most important assistants sticks around in Champaign for a while.

During Illinois’ bye week, the Illini extended defensive coordinator Ryan Walters through the 2024 season.

According to a news release, the contract will move Walters’ pay to third in the Big Ten and into the top-10 nationally among defensive coordinators. The extension is pending the approval by the University’s Board of Trustees this week.

“It’s hard to state the impact Ryan has had on the defensive side of the ball and our whole program,” Bielema said in a statement. “Our players feed off his energy and teaching, and he has a tremendous feel for the game when he’s calling it. His leadership, combined with the proven minds in the defensive staff room, have allowed him to create the Illinois defense, not a scheme that has been done in the past. I’m grateful that our administration, led by Josh Whitman, was able to get in front of this and reward Ryan for the tremendous impact he’s had and is going to have in the future here at Illinois.”

Illinois’ defense is allowing 13.3 points fewer per game this season compared to last, when head coach Lovie Smith also served as DC. The defense has also played pivotal roles in both of the Illini’s top-20 road wins this year.

On his salary (from the release):

Walters’ base salary increases to $1,050,000 for the 2022 season, with $100,000 raises in each of the two seasons that follow. He will also be eligible for annual retention incentives of at least $250,000 per season. His contract includes a $1,000,000 buyout for any non-head coaching position in the Big Ten, and a $750,000 buyout for any non-head coaching position outside of the Big Ten.