Jacksonville Jaguars assistant offensive line coach Luke Butkus will be the new offensive line coach for Illinois coach Lovie Smith, according to sources.
It’s a return for Butkus to his alma mater, where he was an offensive lineman for the Fighting Illini from 1997 through 2001. He was also Illinois’s offensive line coach in 2012.
The move also reunites Butkus with Smith. The two worked together from 2007–09 when Smith was coach of the Chicago Bears and Butkus was an offensive assistant/assistant offensive line coach for the team.
Butkus is the nephew of NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Dick Butkus, who played for Illinois from 1962–64. This past season was Luke Butkus’s third in his position with Jacksonville.
Prior to his latest NFL stint and year as an assistant at Illinois, the 36-year-old Butkus spent 2010–11 with the Seattle Seahawks as a quality control assistant working with the offensive line. Before Butkus’s tenure with Smith in Chicago, he was a graduate assistant at Oregon from 2005–06.
That was after Butkus played in NFL Europe with the Cologne Centurions in 2004 and Rhein Fire in 2003. He also had NFL stints with San Diego in 2003 and Chicago in 2002.
A Steger, Ill., native, Butkus was Illinois’s starting center his final three years in Champaign and was a two-time All-Big Ten selection his last two seasons. He was also a third-team All-America his final year.
The savvy hiring of Smith was announced Monday by new Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman. Two days earlier, Whitman fired former Fighting Illini coach Bill Cubit, who had his tag as interim coach removed in late November in the midst of leading the program to a 5–7 record.
Smith, 57, was fired as coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in January after going 8–24 in two seasons, which included a 6–10 mark this past year. He was Chicago’s coach from 2004 through 2012, compiling an 81–63 record with a Super Bowl appearance in 2006 and three NFC North titles.
He last coached collegiately in 1995 as Ohio State’s defensive backs coach.