Illinois defensive coordinator Ryan Walters takes over as Purdue head coach

Walters was a finalist for this year’s Broyles Award, which goes to the Bowl Subdivision’s top assistant coach.

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Purdue has hired Illinois defensive coordinator Ryan Walters as its new head football coach.

Purdue has hired Illinois defensive coordinator Ryan Walters as its new head football coach.

Anthony Zilis/The News-Gazette via AP

Illinois football fans found themselves on the business end of a hard hit Tuesday, when they learned outstanding defensive coordinator Ryan Walters had accepted the head coaching job at Big Ten division rival Purdue.

Those who spent time lamenting Walters’ departure shouldn’t miss the point. This is what happens when you get good. You can’t have one without the other.

“Boilermaker nation, it’s the dawn of a new day,” Walters tweeted in a video. “I’m Ryan Walters, your head football coach, and I can’t wait to get to West Lafayette. Boiler up.”

It’s a well-deserved opportunity for the 36-year-old, who was a finalist for the Broyles Award — given to the nation’s top assistant — after the Illini finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in scoring defense (12.3 points per game) and No. 2 in yards allowed (263.8). The Illini enter the ReliaQuest Bowl ranked in the top 10 in 17 major defensive categories.

Walters will not coach in the Jan. 2 bowl game against Mississippi State in Tampa. It’s unclear who will perform that task for Illini coach Bret Bielema.

“Ryan is a talented coach with a bright future, and we thank him and his family for everything they did for our program,” Bielema said in a statement. “This is something that I had seen coming for a while now. We have had a plan in place that we will unveil in the coming weeks that will position Illinois football for sustained success in 2023 and for years to come.”

Walters replaces Jeff Brohm, who left for Louisville, his alma mater.

“From an early point in the search process, coach Walters stood out because of the energy, passion and intelligence he displayed as a defensive coordinator in both the Big Ten Conference and Southeastern Conference,” Purdue athletic director Mike Bobinski said in a statement. “His meteoric rise in the coaching profession is in large part due to his unique ability to connect with his student-athletes as both a coach and mentor.”

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