One of the biggest new coordinator hires of the offseason was Bret Bielema luring Ryan Walters away from Missouri to come be the new defensive coordinator for the Illini.
Walters, who is just 35 years old, had a rapid rise at Missouri from safeties coach, to co-coordinator, to being named defensive coordinator for the Tigers in 2018. Bielema spent much of his presser yesterday raving about the energy on the defensive side of the ball and the camaraderie that they have among coaches on that side of ball.
It's not just energy and camaraderie though, as Bielema also spent some time talking about how humble Walters and his defensive staff are. That started with how Walters filled his defensive staff after arriving in Champaign. Bielema had prior relationships with some guys like Andy Buh, Kevin Kane, Terrance Jamison, and Aaron Henry so he asked his new defensive coordinator to simply interview them and Walters ended up loving the experience each of them brought to the table and the collective experience they would have as a staff and the ended up hiring each of those guys.
Being humble is a key trait of effective leaders, and what better way to emphasize that than to flip the script on players and coaches?
Bielema called a few of his coaches out to demonstrate a close angle tackling drill. Coach Kane and Walters stepped in to be defensive players, and when they made contact, the Illini players went nuts.
"I was just doing a routine play to kind of demonstrate it, and our players just went crazy."
"Then, I showed that in film the next day, and I let the players critique it, and it was pure pandemonium."
That moment, coupled with heading out of the office close to midnight a few nights ago to see eight coaches in the defensive staff room jamming out and the staff grinding on game plan preparation has Bielema thinking they may have something special on the defensive side of the ball.
Hear more from Bielema in the clip when asked about how much fun watching the defensive side of the ball come together has been for him.