CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Ryan Walters knows he wants to be a head coach one day and doesn’t shy away from talking about it, the Illinois defensive coordinator just isn’t sure when that time will come. Multiple reports have linked Walters to the head coaching vacancy at Colorado, after Buffaloes coach Karl Dorrell was fired over the weekend. Walters played for Colorado, along with his father, but says his focus remains on his current job with the Illini.
“It’s flattering right and the recognition is the direct result of what we’ve been able to do up to this point here but that’s pretty much the extent of it,” Walters said. “The nostalgia factor kind of goes out the window when you get into this profession. My home is in Savoy, Illinois and I am the defensive coordinator here and I love my job.”
Walters has orchestrated a defensive turnaround for the Illini (4-1, 1-1 B1G), who boast the nation’s top scoring defense allowing just 8.4 points per game. Illinois is also Top 5 in the country in opponent passer rating (1st), red zone defense (2nd), total defense (3rd), rush defense (3rd) and first downs allowed (5th). Walters credits Illinois head coach Bret Bielema for his development.
“One of the more attractive things about this opportunity was Coach Bret’s history with his coaching tree,” Walters said. “He’s had a lot of defensive coordinators on his staff get head jobs. He’s known as one of the best head coaches in terms of managing games, managing locker rooms. In our profession, that’s one of the things he’s most revered for in our coaching community. Was I ready before I got here to be a head coach? I probably thought I was. Now, being with Coach B in Year Two, there’s no way I was ready. I’m learning a ton just about how to manage a locker room, how to set up a calendar and what kind of things to be paying attention to and how to win games by first stop from losing games. All those lessons are things I’ll take forever, and I’m still learning, still growing and very appreciative of his tutelage in my career.”
“When I came here after being around Ryan for a short amount of time, I knew he would get a head coaching job, it’s just a matter of when,” Bielema said. “He has a very quiet confidence. I think when people come in and have to be loud to show their confidence, I think that’s usually false and something that can be seen through, so I just think he carries a lot of the characteristics in the right environment to be successful.”
Walters is under contract at Illinois through 2024 after signing a multi-year extension last season that is paying him more than $1 million per season, the first assistant coach in program history to make seven figures.