Illinois' staff changes continued Tuesday with reports that demoted co-defensive coordinator Curt Mallory will leave Champaign to become defensive coordinator at Akron, which has brought in Rob Ianello as its new head coach.
That leaves only one long-term assistant, Dan Disch, on Zook's staff. It wouldn't be surprising if Disch, another defensive position coach who had been co-coordinator with Mallory, also departed. But the well-respected Disch, whose Florida recruiting connections make him an attractive commodity, also could remain in Champaign.
The departure of Mallory will give Illinois' new defensive coordinator, Vic Koenning, a voice in Zook's choice of a new defensive assistant.
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.
Alex Legion, who left the Illinois program earlier this week, will transfer to Florida International and play for Isiah Thomas, Jeff Goodman reported on FoxSports.com.
FIU will be the third school for Legion, a Detroit native who began his college career at Kentucky.
To play one more full year of Division I or II basketball as a fifth-year senior, Legion will need to sit out the rest of this season and all of next season, Illini coach Bruce Weber told reporters.