The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Big week for Illinois football with new hire announced

While the September 2nd opening kickoff at Memorial Stadium is still over a month away, Illini football fans have much to discuss. The final week of July saw a uniform reveal on Monday and a new coach on Tuesday, bringing excitement to an otherwise quiet period. 

The Illini released three new uniform combinations on July 24th, which will be worn throughout the 2023 season. The social media reveal had fans mentioning a lack of orange in the jerseys and similarities to Syracuse’s uniforms. Still, the general consensus was that they greatly improved from last year’s set. 

Two-colored stripes are a new feature on both the shoulders of the jerseys and down the sides of the pants. The unveiling allows head coach Bret Bielema to stick with his beloved orange helmet, blue jersey and orange pants combination that he seemingly puts out every home game. 

Do jerseys impact the team itself? No. But the July 25th news will. Illinois surprised everyone on Tuesday afternoon when it announced the signing of Jim Leonhard as a senior defensive analyst. Illini fans may recognize the name, as Leonhard spent nine seasons in the NFL and was most recently the Wisconsin Badgers defensive coordinator for six years. 

After the Badgers elected to go with a new head coach and staff next year, Leonhard was expected to become one of the hottest defensive coordinators on the market. There were rumors for many schools, even Illinois, but Bielema put those to rest when he promoted Aaron Henry to the job. 

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    The Illini have no doubts that they made the right decision, but now they get to pair the minds of Henry and Leonhard together as they embark on a season where they expect to have another top defense in the country. Leonhard is no stranger to that feat, boasting a top-10 finish in total defense five times in six seasons.

    Leonhard certainly has the experience and resume to help produce a solid defensive game plan, but another thing he can help the Illini with is recruiting. Leonhard helped haul in ten 4-star players and one 5-star to the Badger defense in the last four years and that doesn’t count transfers. 

    This likely ends moves the Illini will make before the season starts, but it certainly ends on a good note. There have been many changes to the Illini, including a new quarterback, losing over half the secondary and losing their defensive coordinator to the Purdue Boilermakers head coaching job. They have replenished, and then some, and will lock in with their new analyst over the next five weeks to prepare for another winning season in Champaign.

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    About the Contributor
    Ben Fader, Assistant Sports Editor
    Hello, I’m Ben! I’m a junior at Illinois and assistant sports editor at The Daily Illini. I’m majoring in journalism and minoring in communications and recreation, sport and tourism. This is my third year with The Daily Illini, and I can’t wait to produce some amazing work. Feel free to contact me at my email below with questions or concerns, or if you just want to talk sports!
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