Illini Staff Changes Include New DEs & DTs positions Plus Gill Byrd Resignation

Matthew Stevens

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Lovie Smith has reshaped his defensive coaching staff. 

The Illinois head coach, who has just finished his fourth season in Champaign, has said goodbye to a rising star in the business and a long-time confidant. Smith has replaced this pair by focusing on a crucial positional group.

Austin Clark accepted the outside linebackers coaching position with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins last week. On Friday, the University of Illinois athletics announced the resignation of defensive passing game coordinator and safeties coach Gill Byrd.

In order to solve a critical problem with Illinois’ lack of a pass rush, Smith has decided two minds are better than one. Illinois athletics also officially announced the hiring of defensive tackles coach Alfred Davis and defensive ends coach Jimmy Lindsey.

“Gill Byrd is like a brother to me,” Lovie Smith said. “We have coached together at four different stops and he has had an incredible influence on the teams and players at each place he’s been. As good a coach as he is on the field, Gill is even a better person. I hope for nothing but the best for Gill and his family. We will miss him greatly around our program.”

According to the university release, Byrd is saying an “illness in our family” is causing him to resign from his position at Illinois. Byrd ends a run of 11 seasons working for Smith at the NFL and college level. Before arriving at Illinois two years ago, Byrd was Smith's cornerbacks coach during 2014 and '15 seasons with the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Byrd also spent seven seasons on Smith's Chicago Bears staff (2006-12), starting as a defensive quality control assistant before moving into position as the team's assistant defensive backs and safeties coach.

“The Byrd family loves the Smith family,” Byrd said in a statement in a university release. “I would like to thank Lovie and everyone at the University of Illinois for the great time we’ve had while in Champaign-Urbana. The future is bright for both the Byrds and the University of Illinois football program.”

With the departure of Byrd, Keynodo Hudson has been given the responsibility of the entire secondary after coaching cornerbacks in 2019. The only defensive coaches remaining in the same spot for the 2020 season reside in the Smith family. Lovie Smith will remain the defensive play-caller and his son Miles Smith will remain in the title of linebackers coach.

Davis’ hiring from Hutchinson Community College was previously reported by Illini Maven/Sports Illustrated earlier Friday morning. comes to Illinois following two seasons at Hutchinson Community College where he had been promoted to associate head coach and co-defensive coordinator.

“Coach Davis is a rising star in the coaching world,” Smith said in a statement. “The work he has already done at an early age is impressive and we are getting a high-energy coach who also should be an outstanding recruiter.”

Lindsey comes to Illinois after doing the same position at three seasons at Western Kentucky. A native of Norvan, N.C., Lindsey played linebacker at Chattanooga from 1996-99, where he started his coaching career as an assistant from 2000-01 before coaching linebackers there in 2002. He also has stops at Gardner-Webb, Miami (Ohio), Tennessee-Martin, Furman, Georgia Southern before the last three seasons at Western Kentucky. Lindsey has experienced four NFL minority coaching internships with the Cleveland Browns (2006), Detroit Lions (2008), Denver Broncos (2010) and San Diego Chargers (2013).

“Jimmy Lindsey and Alfred Davis fit our staff as well as you could hope for,” Smith said in a statement. “Coach Lindsey has coached some outstanding players during his career and is a proven recruiter at each of his previous coaching stops. He has a great reputation in coaching edge rushers and comes highly recommended.”