Former NIU asst. to coach Illini running backs

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DeAndre Smith has been hired as Illinois’ new running backs coach. Smith, who coached the running backs at Northern Illinois in 2001-04 and at UNLV last season, replaces Reggie Mitchell, who left Champaign to take a job at Kansas.

“If there is a perfect fit for me, it is Illinois,” said Smith, a St. Louis native who played for Missouri State, earning a degree there in 1992. “This is a childhood dream, growing up so close and having friends who attended the University of Illinois. I am excited about the talent returning on this team.”

When Smith was in DeKalb, NIU was led by four straight all-conference running backs, including Michael Turner and Garrett Wolfe, who play for the Atlanta Falcons and the Chicago Bears, respectively. Thomas Hammock also was a 1,000-yard rusher at NIU when Smith was there.

In between NIU and UNLV, Smith coached at Miami of Ohio and New Mexico.

At this point, Ron Zook has filled all the vacancies on his assistant staff.

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