After Wisconsin opted to hire former Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell to run their football program, the former interim coach of the Badgers has landed in Champaign, with Jim Leonhard joining the Illinois coaching staff.
According to a press release from the school, Leonhard will serve as a senior football analyst, and will likely help a defense that is going through a lot of turnover this season.
Leonhard spent the last six seasons at Wisconsin, working as their defensive coordinator before being tabbed as the interim head coach for the final seven games of the 2022 season.
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The Badgers ultimately decided on Fickell as their new head coach, and Leonhard insisted there were no hard feelings in an interview with WKOW’s Karley Marotta.
“I loved my time here at Wisconsin and really enjoyed every step of the way,” he said. “Unfortunately, things didn’t end up the way I wanted to, but I am excited to figure out what is next.”
What’s next is a position with the Illini in the coming season, as he looks to help a defense that is going to face some significant questions after the departures of stars like Devon Witherspoon and Jartavius Martin.
Fortunately, the cupboard is hardly barren in Champaign, with a strong pass rush headlined by Jer’Zhan Newton and Keith Randolph Jr. The secondary got some help with Nicario Harper, along with the return of Tahevon Nicholson at cornerback.
The Illini will kick off their season against Toledo on Sept. 2 at Memorial Stadium.