CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Illinois defensive coordinator Hardy Nickerson has resigned, citing personal reasons. The news comes after the Illini lost 63-33 at Maryland on Saturday, the second time this season the team has allowed more than 60 points in a game.
“Hardy informed me yesterday that he felt it was in the program’s best interest to leave our staff,” Smith said in a statement. “I’ve known and coached with Hardy for many years, and know what an outstanding person he is. We are all disappointed in the performance of our defense this season, and we all bear responsibility for that. I wish Hardy nothing but the best as he moves forward with his career.”
Nickerson is in his third season as defensive coordinator with the Illini and was an original hire by head coach Lovie Smith. The Illini have one of the worst defenses in the country, ranking 127th out of 129 FBS teams in total defense, allowing an average of 535 yards per game.
“When I was contacted about being offered this job back in 2016, I was excited for the opportunity to come in to coordinate and run Illinois’ defense,” Nickerson said in the same statement. “I had every intention of helping put our defensive student-athletes in the best possible position to win, and, ultimately, to make the University of Illinois community and fans proud of our results. Due to health-related circumstances beyond my control I must step aside at this time.
“I would like to thank Lovie Smith and Josh Whitman for giving me the opportunity to coach at the University of Illinois. I’d also like to thank my colleagues and staff, as well as the entire Illinois Football Program, for the privilege of working with them. Most importantly, I want to thank our student-athletes for all of their hard work and great effort. Working with you every day has been fun. I wish you all nothing but the best in all that you do going forward.”
Illinois is last in the Big Ten in multiple defensive statistics including points allowed per game (37.6), rushing yards allowed (248) and the 535 yards allowed is a league worst by 97 yards.