Illinois FCS Notebook: Coaching changes, staff rearranges & exchanges

Illinois FCS Notebook:  Coaching changes, staff rearranges & exchanges

The recent flurry of coaching changes doesn't appear to have impacted the 2018 recruiting classes for the state's FCS programs.

"I've talked to some of the recruits who have already signed and nobody is jumping ship," Illinois recruiting analyst "Edgy" Tim O'Halloran told Prairie State Pigskin.

Then again, those who put their name on the dotted line at the December early signing date have little choice. They would have to be granted releases by the programs with which they signed, according to NCAA guidelines.

Here's our look at some of the recent changes within the coaching ranks around the state.

Western Illinois

Charlie Fisher has departed Macomb to coordinate the passing game and coach wide receivers at Arizona State. WIU hired Jared Elliott to replace Fisher.


Elliott served the previous two seasons as WIU's assistant head coach and co-offensive coordinator.

"It's a good hire. It makes sense. As the old saying goes, 'If it's not broke, no need to fix it,'" O'Halloran said. "It stays the course. That's the feel you get with the hire. It also has to do with the time of year. We're going to come out of the (recruiting) dead period soon. They're going to have to hit the ground running so to speak. So it makes sense. "

Elliott, a 2008 Miami (Ohio) graduate, joined Western in 2012 after serving as a graduate assistant for Fisher at Miami of the Mid-American Conference. Elliott was a graduate assistant in both 2010 and 2011. He assisted coaching the quarterbacks, was responsible for film breakdown, helped in recruiting and managed the scout teams. In 2011, he worked with the offensive line and tight ends.

Elliott worked as an assistant coach for wide receivers at Missouri Southern State University in both 2008 and 2009. He conducted position meetings, film study, assisted in game planning, monitored the academic progress of his position group and ran field drills at Missouri Southern.

"I certainly think the financial aspect of it has a lot to do with it these days. Can Western, or any of the instate FCS schools, really go out and compete and get guys who are a higher profile name to take these jobs? What can you pay these guys? That has to be a consideration. All of these schools have to maintain the budget they have left,” O'Halloran said.

Elliott will need to hire a defensive coordinator as Tony Grantham has left WIU.

"I would like to thank all the Leatherneck players for the opportunity to work with you each day this past season. I am proud of the accomplishments we achieved and wish you guys all the best with your future endeavors!" Grantham tweeted Jan. 6.

Illinois State

In many ways, Redbird head coach Brock Spack has gone back to the future with his recent staff hirings.

According, former ISU assistant coach Harold Etheridge has been hired as the program's offensive line coach.


"A veteran coach with more than two decades of experience, Etheridge returns to Normal after previously spending nine seasons as the offensive line coach for the Redbirds in the late 1990s. During that time, Etheridge helped the Redbirds earn a spot in the NCAA FCS playoffs in 1998, before winning the Gateway Conference title and reaching the FCS semifinal game in 1999. In 2000, he moved with former ISU head coach Todd Berry to Army and coached the Black Knights' offensive line for four seasons," states the ISU athletic website.

In addition, the Redbirds announced the hiring of former ISU defensive lineman and Redbird assistant coach Travis Niekamp (pronounced: NEE-kamp) as defensive coordinator last week.

Niekamp, who previously served as outside linebacker, safeties and defensive tackles coach for Berry at Illinois State (1998-99), returns as defensive coordinator and defensive line coach for the Redbirds. Niekamp recently spent two seasons as part of the coaching staff at Montana, serving as the Grizzlies' special teams coordinator and linebackers coach.

Finally, ISU added former Minnesota assistant coach Brian Anderson as the team's wide receivers coach. Anderson spent six seasons as an assistant coach on the Gopher staff, serving as wide receivers coach from 2014-16 after leading the Minnesota running backs from 2011-13.

Anderson played at Western Illinois, where he lettered as a wide receiver in 1991 and 1992.

"I've known about Brian for a long time and he comes highly recommended from Coach (Jerry) Kill, who I respect deeply," Spack said in the ISU release. "He has been a part of staffs that have won championships in this league before and has been around the state of Illinois for a long time. His experience working with wide receivers at the FCS and FBS levels will be a great asset to our offensive staff."

Leathernecks land at No. 12

Western Illinois landed at No. 12 in the final Athlon FCS Power Poll.

The Leathernecks posted an 8-4 overall record and were 5-3 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. WIU ended its season with a 21-19 loss to Weber State in the first round of the FCS playoffs.


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