Illinois feels like the Illini are on the right path to building a consistently winning football program. This season, Illinois is 4-6 (3-4 in B1G play) in the first year of 11 of the 12 coaches for the team led by head coach Bret Bielema. Illinois feels confident in the success of the defense enough to give a contract extension to first-year defensive coordinator Ryan Walters.

On Sunday afternoon, Illinois announced a new contract extension for Walters. It will run through the conclusion of the 2024 season and elevates Walters into the top-10 salaries for DC’s nationally.

According to the press release from Illinois, “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.”

In 10 games this season, Illinoisโ€™ defense ranks 36th in the nation in points allowed per game (21.6). After giving up an average of 33.7 points per game in the first three games of the season, Illinoisโ€™ defense has allowed only an average of 16.4 points per game in the last seven games.

“It’s hard to state the impact Ryan has had on the defensive side of the ball and our whole program,” Bielema said. “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.”

“First, on behalf of my family, I would like to thank the Champaign-Urbana community for the way you’ve embraced us with open arms,” said Walters. “I am excited to continue to build the Illinois defense under the leadership of Coach Bielema and with the exceptional staff he has put together here. The vision and passion of Bret and Josh Whitman is creating a championship culture that is exciting to be a part of. Myself, the staff, and the exceptional young men in our locker room will continue to work tirelessly to compete for and win championships here at Illinois.”