Illinois Fighting Illini

6 Sep 1998:  Cornerback Donnie Abraham #21 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looks on during a game against the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings defeated the Buccaneers 31-7. Mandatory Credit: Elsa Hasch  /Allsport
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Lovie Smith turns to another ex-Buccaneer to fill spot on Illini staff

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Slowly but surely, Lovie Smith is turning Champaign into Tampa Bay North.

Illinois announced Wednesday that Donnie Abraham has been hired by Smith as the Fighting Illini’s safeties coach.  Abraham will take the spot vacated by Tim McGarigle, who left earlier this month for a job with the Green Bay Packers.

This will mark Abraham’s first job at the collegiate level as he has spent the vast majority of first dozen or so years of his coaching career at the high school level.  He also coached defensive backs for an Arena League team for two seasons.

Abraham was a player for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when Smith was a defensive assistant for the NFL organization.  One of Henderson’s Tampa teammates was Hardy Nickerson, who now serves as the Illini’s defensive coordinator.

“I’m very pleased to have Donnie Abraham join our coaching staff,” Smith said in a statement. “Donnie was a great player during his long NFL career, and has gained some terrific experience coaching high school football in the Tampa area and at IMG. His background with our staff here at Illinois will be extremely helpful as we continue to implement our defensive philosophies.

“Donnie is an excellent communicator and will help in our recruiting efforts in the state of Florida and other places he has connections. I’m very pleased to be able to bring someone of his caliber to our staff.”

Abraham had spent the past two seasons as the defensive coordinator at high school powerhouse IMG Academy.

Michigan defensive analyst, longtime coach Dave Adolph passes at age 79

ANN ARBOR, MI - NOVEMBER 19: General view of Michigan Stadium during a game between the Indiana Hoosiers and Michigan Wolverines on November 19, 2016 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Michigan won the game 20-10. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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The Michigan football family specifically and the football world in general is mourning the passing of one its most beloved coaches.

Jim Harbaugh confirmed on his Twitter account Sunday that Dave Adolph passed away earlier in the day at the age of 79 at his home in Dublin, Ohio. Sam Rutigliano, who had Adolph on his Cleveland Browns coaching staff in the late seventies and early eighties, told the Akron Beacon Journal that the long-time coach hd been battling an unspecified type of cancer.

Adolph had spent the past two seasons as a defensive analyst for Harbaugh’s Wolverines. For the six years prior to that, Adolph was a football staffer for rival Ohio State. He also worked for Harbaugh at the University of San Diego from 2004-2007

From 1979-1999, Adolph was an assistant for six different NFL clubs, including stops as defensive coordinator with the Browns (twice), San Diego Chargers (twice), Los Angeles Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs.

His last on-field job at the collegiate level came at OSU in 1978 under the legendary Woody Hayes. He was also on staffs at his alma mater Akron, UConn, Kentucky and Illinois.

According to a press release from the Browns, Adolph is survived by his five children — Michael, Mark, Thomas, Shane and Heather — and their 12 grandchildren.. Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to those impacted by the coach’s passing.

Illinois assistant takes job with Lovie Smith’s old rival in the NFL

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 11:  Head coach Lovie Smith of the Chicago Bears watches as his team takes on the Houston Texans at Soldier Field on November 11, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The Texans defeated the Bears 13-6.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Fresh off completing his first recruiting class at Illinois, Lovie Smith now has to turn his attention to recruiting a new coach.

The Illini announced Friday afternoon that linebackers coach Tim McGarigle would be leaving the staff and taking a job as a defensive quality control/linebackers coach with the Green Bay Packers.

“There is no doubt that Tim McGarigle is a rising star in the coaching fraternity,” Smith said in a statement. “As much as I would have been happy that he stayed on our staff, I would never want to stand in the way of a coach moving into a position he wanted to attain. Tim is a terrific defensive coach and excellent communicator. I have no doubt he’ll have a very successful career. We’ll try to fill this position as soon as possible with spring ball beginning Feb. 14.”

Smith, of course, coached for nine seasons with the Chicago Bears and had plenty of classic battles with current Packers coach Mike McCarthy. While staff departures to and from the NFL after National Signing Day are somewhat common, it’s not every time you see a staff member head out for a quality control job for a once former rival in the league.

McGarigle was originally brought on board in Campaign by former coach Bill Cubit back in January of 2016 but was retained in the same position when Smith was hired a few months later. He won’t have a lot of time to find a replacement however, as the team starts spring football in just a few days on February 14th.

Big Ten National Signing Day recap: Ohio State lands historic class, Michigan not far behind

ANN ARBOR, MI - NOVEMBER 28:  Head coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes shakes hands with head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines after a 42-13 Ohio State win at Michigan Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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The Big Ten is the same as it ever was after National Signing Day with Ohio State and Michigan once again leading the way thanks to a boat load of talent headed their way. Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh both have proven to be some of the top coaches in college football and that is certainly apparent every February when the two land a pair of top five classes like they did this year.

The Buckeyes’ haul is particularly notable as one of the few groups that can keep pace with No. 1 ranked Alabama, even edging the Tide’s class when it comes to the average star ranking of the 21 signees. That historic haul for OSU includes the top cornerback, outside linebacker, offensive guard and top junior college defensive back. As if that isn’t enough talent headed to Columbus, the second-ranked defensive end, dual-threat quarterback and all-purpose back are also in the fold.

The Wolverines were no slouch either and managed to already enroll 11 top players early. In addition, Harbaugh and his staff reached into the South for defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon and several IMG Academy stars. Defending champion Penn State made a late surge as well and Nebraska made a very nice push into Southern California to land a quality class.

Top recruits (all rankings via 247Sports Composite): No. 7 overall Jeffrey Okudah (CB, Ohio State), No. 8 overall Chase Young (DE, OSU), No. 11 Baron Browning (LB, OSU), No. 12 overall Donovan Peoples-Jones (WR, Michigan)

Top 25 classes: No. 2 Ohio State, No. 5 Michigan, No. 15 Penn State, No. 18 Maryland, No. 23 Nebraska

Biggest storyline: Ohio State, Michigan find plenty of success nationally

Everybody knows the two Big Ten powerhouses will perform well on the recruiting trail given their coaching staffs, history of success and ability to put players in the league. But what might be most impressive this year is the amazing reach the two displayed in mining the entire country for talent. Meyer went to Nevada for a top quarterback, landed more blue-chippers from Texas than any in-state school and beat out just about everybody in the South for prospects from Florida. The Wolverines, meanwhile, beat out Alabama and Georgia for a five-star defensive tackle and recruited even more nationally than Notre Dame with signees from 14 different states.

Biggest surprise: Maryland lands a top 20 class

There’s always a head-turner in the team rankings each year and in 2017 that might be the fact that Maryland landed a top 20 classes and the fourth-best in the Big Ten. That includes a whopping nine four-star recruits for D.J. Durkin’s team, led by tailback Cordarrian Richardson straight from the heart of SEC territory. The team had a nice turnaround last season and appear primed to climb more based on how they did Wednesday.

Don’t sleep on: Nebraska, Iowa

Mike Riley is no stranger to the West Coast thanks to his days at USC and Oregon State and he’s clearly leaning heavily on those ties in putting together a great group for the Cornhuskers in 2017. Big Red wrestled away Nevada receiver Tyjon Lindsey away from Ohio State and beat out a bunch of names for early enrollee quarterback Tristan Gebbia from Southern California. There’s been a major infusion of speed and quickness with this class. As for the Hawkeyes, they managed to lure a surprising commitment from a five-star defensive end and really upgraded some of the skill position talent.

We’ll see about: Michigan State, Wisconsin

The usual suspects dominated the top spots in the team rankings but that wasn’t quite the case for two teams that love to recruit, develop and then crank out talent for the next level in Michigan State and Wisconsin. The two schools combined for just six four-star players on Wednesday but still managed to finish with a pair of top 40 classes. Given how well the coaching staffs have been able to find some hidden gems, chances are high that will be the case once again with their 2017 signees, even if it takes a few seasons before those results will be realized.

Illini transfer RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn tweets he’s heading home to Vandy

CHAMPAIGN, IL - OCTOBER 3: Ke'Shawn Vaughn #5 of the Illinois Fighting Illini runs the ball against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium on October 3, 2015 in Champaign, Illinois.  Illinois defeated Nebraska 14-13. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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Before we get to a full day of high schoolers revealing their new football homes, we have a current college player revealing his.

On his personal Twitter account Tuesday night, former Illinois running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn revealed that he’ll enroll at Vanderbilt and continuing his playing career for the Commodores. The move comes just under two weeks after Vaughn tweeted his decision to leave the Fighting Illini.

It was also mark a homecoming for the back as Vaughn played his high school football in Nashville.

Because of NCAA transfer rules, Vaughn will likely have to sit out the 2017 season. He will, though, have two seasons of eligibility remaining beginning in 2018.

Vaughn rushed for a team-high 723 yards and six touchdowns as a true freshman in 2015. This past season, he was third with 301 yards and three touchdowns.