Illinois head coach Bret Bielema announced Thursday morning that former defensive backs coach Aaron Henry has been promoted to defensive coordinator.

The Illini’s former DC, Ryan Walters, recently left for the vacant Purdue head coaching job. Here is Henry’s statement on the news.

  Bielema also released an official statement on the hiring Thursday morning.

“I am thrilled to announce Aaron Henry as our defensive coordinator,” Bielema said. “Aaron is a special person and coach. His ability to connect with our current roster, as well as potential student-athletes, is among the best I’ve been around. He has a gift to teach, motivate, inspire, and lead young people. Aaron has made an enormous impact on our defensive backs room in two years, most notably with the growth of Devon Witherspoon and Tahveon Nicholson. He will be an accomplished defensive coordinator.”

Henry’s defensive backs led the country in interceptions (22) and fewest touchdown passes allowed (8) this past season. As stated by Bielema above, Devon Witherspoon was one of the top defensive backs in the country in 2022.

Henry started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Arkansas, moving to Rutgers as a full-time defensive backs coach. He made stops at NC State and Vanderbilt before reuniting with Bielema at Illinois from his playing days at Wisconsin and Arkansas.

He’ll see his first action as DC in the Reliaquest bowl against Mississippi State.