New Illini defensive line coach Austin Clark making transition easy for players

CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) -- The new Illinois defensive line coach is only 27 years old, but he says age is just a number. He's making the transition easy for his player, who say they feel like their old coach never left.

The Illinois defensive line is seeing double.

"He'll say like, a catchphrase and we'll be like, wow, Coach Phair says the exact same," Tymir Oliver said.

New defensive line coach Austin Clark shares some similarities with his predecessor Mike Phair, who left for a position with the Colts back in  January.

"To be honest, he acts just like Coach Phair," Oliver continued. "Some of the stuff they say, or the way that they act, it's identical."

But unlike Phair, Illinois is Clark's first full-time coaching job. The 27-year-old spent the past two seasons with Southern California as a graduate assistant.

"To me, age is just a number. I've been surrounded with great coaches who prepared me for this opportunity and it's great to be around a coaching staff that believes in my abilities to develop these players, and I'm fired up to be here," Clark said.

"Every day he's trying to figure out what we need to do to get better, better technique," Bobby Roundtree added. "He's just high-pumped about us and I like it."

The Illini say they hope all that focus on technique will help them build off last season. Illinois struggled to defend the run, last in the Big Ten allowing 218 yards per game on the ground.

"Raising that number, being looked at as a dominant defense by the NCAA," Oliver said.

"More sacks and more tackles for loss, and more three-and-outs," added Roundtree.

For Clark, the path to achieving that is simple. "High energy. We're going to work really hard and be educated football players," he said.

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