CHAMPAIGN – Sources say Illini football coach Lovie Smith has fired his offensive coordinator and cornerbacks coach.
Football Scoop reported Saturday that Smith is letting go of offensive coordinator Garrick McGee and cornerbacks coach Paul Williams. A university spokesman would not confirm the firings.
If true, the coaching staff shakeup comes one day after the NCAA’s new early signing period closed. Smith met with the media Friday and talked about the 18 recruits who signed national letters of intent.
He was asked about any possible coaching staff changes and said, “Every year some changes happen but I’m not anticipating any.”
The hiring of McGee shortly after Smith was hired as head coach was considered a coup. McGee had been offensive coordinator at Louisville and took a pay cut to take the job with Smith. At the time, McGee and Smith talked about their long relationship, one that began when McGee was a child and Smith knew his father, Larry McGee, who was head football coach at Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa, Okla.
Smith even recruited McGee while Smith was an assistant coach at Arizona State. McGee played quarterback for two seasons at Arizona State.
McGee also coached at Northern Iowa, Toledo, UNLV, Northwestern and Arkansas and was head coach for two seasons at Alabama-Birmingham. He also worked for two seasons with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars.
Illinois ranked 126th in the nation in total offense in 2017, averaging 280.4 yards per game.
That said, McGee had to use three quarterbacks due to lack of production and injuries and the offense relied on many freshmen, four of which were starters on the offensive line. In 2016, his first season as offensive coordinator, Illinois averaged 315.1 yards per game.
Williams was hired by former coach Bill Cubit and was retained by Smith when he took over in March of 2016. Williams had been at Miami (Fla.) from 2011 to 2015.
Smith went through four offensive coordinators during his nine season as head coach of the Chicago Bears. Among them was former Illini head coach Ron Turner.
Ironically, it was Turner who recommended Smith to Josh Whitman when Whitman was hired as the Illini athletics director.