Bret Bielema and the Illinois Fighting Illini conveniently dropped the news that former Wisconsin Badgers coach Jim Leonhard was joining the program as a Senior Defensive Analyst on the eve of Big Ten Media Days.
With a ton of discussion about Leonhard, his ties to the Badgers, and his new role moving forward, Bielma instantly became a popular man for the media to talk to when he took the stage on Wednesday — especially when you consider that Illinois is coming off an impressive 8-5 season.
Fortunately, the former Wisconsin football coach and three-time Big Ten Champion shed some light on his analyst duties for the upcoming season.
Bret Bielema Talks about Jim Leonhard & His New Role With Illinois at Big Ten Media Days.
After seven incredible seasons with the Badgers serving as their defensive coordinator and interim head coach, Jim Leonhard has chosen to stay involved in football rather than take a season off like previously anticipated.
During his time as Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator, the Badgers ranked among the nation’s top five in total defense and top 10 in scoring defense four times. In short, he was damn good at his job.
Already having strong ties to Bret Bielema, the Illini head coach thought it was a no-brainer to contact Leonhard and see if they could work something out.
“I’m going to use him in all three phases,” Bielema said at Big Ten Media Days. “He won’t be with us on gamedays when we’re away. He’ll be in the office Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and then go home and be with his family on the weekends.”
There’s no denying that Jim Leonhard will be a tremendous asset for Illinois this season. They look to replace Ryan Walters, who left for the Purdue head coaching vacancy this offseason. Adding a former coordinator whose defense ranked third overall in scoring D and was fourth among Power 5 programs in turnovers created during his tenure doesn’t hurt.
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