Potential candidates emerging to replace Lovie Smith at Illinois
Illinois has reportedly fired Lovie Smith after five years at the helm, and the Illini will likely be looking for a replacement sooner rather than later.
This is a job that could be attractive, but coaches have struggled to gain a foothold here since the 1980s.
Here’s a few candidates courtesy of Yahoo!’s Pete Thamel:
Some names for Illinois: Army's Jeff Monken, Buffalo's Lance Leipold, former Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema, Kent's Sean Lewis, Iowa State OC Tom Manning, Ball State's Mike Neu, Wisconsin DC Jim Leonhard and Cincinnati DC Marcus Freeman.
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) December 13, 2020
Jeff Monken is one of the more intriguing names on that list. Monken is finishing up his seventh year at West Point and has turned that program around. He’s twice won 10+ games and he also reached the double-digit win milestone three times at Georgia Southern.
There currently isn’t a Power 5 program attempting to run the triple option offense. It might be worth experimenting with something new after a few decades of struggles for the Illini.
Monken’s parents also live in Illinois, according to The Athletic’s Nicole Auerbach.
If I'm Illinois, I absolutely call Jeff Monken.
An aside: It would save his parents — who in normal times drive from Illinois to Army games each week — a lot of time on the road! https://t.co/p9Z7sv7XUX
— Nicole Auerbach 😷 (@NicoleAuerbach) December 13, 2020
Former Wisconsin and Arkansas coach Bret Bielema also sticks out on that list of candidates. Bielema had success in the Big Ten with the Badgers, but never caught on in Fayetteville. Bielema is currently the outside linebackers coach for the New York Giants.
Expect more candidates to surface in the coming days.
Illinois will find out its Week 9 opponent on Sunday.