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Illinois locks up defensive coordinator Ryan Walters with new deal, big raise

Walters will be among the 10 highest-paid defensive coordinators in college football.

Illinois on Sunday announced a contract extension that will keep him in blue and orange through the 2024 season.

"It's hard to state the impact Ryan has had on the defensive side of the ball and our whole program," Bret Bielema said. "Our players feed off his energy and teaching, and he has a tremendous feel for the game when he's calling it. His leadership, combined with the proven minds in the defensive staff room, have allowed him to create the Illinois defense, not a scheme that has been done in the past. I'm grateful that our administration, led by , was able to get in front of this and reward Ryan for the tremendous impact he's had and is going to have in the future here at Illinois."

In his first season since arriving from rival Missouri, Walters has chopped 13.3 points and 77.4 yards per game off the Illini's averages. A defense that ranked 108th at 6.53 yards per play under Lovie Smith's staff has moved to 68th this season, surrendering 5.61 a snap.

As such, Walters will be paid $1.05 million in 2022, $1.15 million in '23 and $1.25 million in the final year of the deal -- with $250,000 annual retention bonuses. He would owe $1 million upon taking an assistant position at a Big Ten school and $750,000 for an assistant position outside the conference.

"I knew when I initially spoke with Coach Walters in January that he was coming to Illinois to set the defensive tone," said junior defensive back Sydney Brown. "His ability to lead people and interact with the guys on the team has really inspired me. I'm excited to expand on what's already been accomplished. The groundwork that has been created so far is simply the beginning of what this man will do. I'm excited to see Coach Walters coach a championship-caliber defense at Illinois."

Walters coordinated defenses at Missouri from 2018-20, his first such job. He was the Tigers' secondary coach prior to that, and also coached defensive backs at Memphis, North Texas and Arizona, with GA stints at Oklahoma and Arizona.

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