Football coordinator vacates position; Assistants will cover defense

By Steve Contorno

With just over a month and a half of preparation time remaining before the 2007 football season, the Illinois football team was faced with finding a new defensive coordinator this week. Current coordinator Vince Okruch told head coach Ron Zook that he will take a temporary leave of absence from the team.

Zook promoted assistant coaches Dan Disch and Curt Mallory on Thursday, asking them to serve as interim co-defensive coordinators.

“I have asked Dan and Curt to move into these roles,” Zook said in a press release. “Both Dan and Curt have been with this program since our day one. They have been primed for these positions and I trust them whole-heartedly. We are fortunate to be heading into season three with three coaches who have helped us grow this defense since we got here in Dan, Curt and (defensive line coach) Tom Sims.”

Zook made a brief statement about Okruch’s leave.

“Vince has decided to take a leave of absence from the staff, which is something he feels is best for him personally,” Zook said. “We appreciate the leadership and guidance that Vince provided the team last season.”

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    Okruch helped lead the defense to a fifth overall ranking in the Big Ten last season, including the third-best pass defense. Both the run defense and pass rush improved last season from previous years.

    The athletic department did not say how long Okruch would step down for, nor did it cite a reason.

    Disch has coached defenses before, albeit at the high school level, where he served as head coach for 16 years. He was set to coach the linebackers in 2007. Mallory has been coaching defensive backs for 13 seasons. Both Disch and Mallory have been with Zook since he arrived at Illinois. Disch also worked with Zook for one season at Florida.

    Okruch has 30 years of coaching experience at the college level. He has served as defensive coordinator with four colleges, including Northwestern from 1997-98 and Colorado from 1999-2003.