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Illini Football: Thad Ward is a Homerun Hire



Bret Bielema hit a homerun for Illini Football by bringing back Thad Ward

On January 30th, Illini Football announced that former running back coach, Thad Ward will return to his former position as running backs coach for the University of Illinois. Ward served this same position as part of Lovie Smith’s original staff from 2016-2018. Ward was most recently the wide receivers coach at Kansas State, a successful Big-12 team. Prior to that, he served as wide receivers coach and pass game coordinator for Temple. Ward is a true homerun for Illini Football for many reasons.

Recruiting wins with Familiarity

First off, Ward knows this institution and state extremely well. To put it bluntly, Ward was one of the few coaches on Lovie’s staff that actually seemed to give a damn about recruiting. Additionally, his head coach also literally did not know where Green street was. Despite all of this, Ward had solid success on the recruiting trail. He did his best in the State, and also recruiting St. Louis and Florida extremely well. I am truly ecstatic to see what Thad Ward can do with a coach that is so invested into this program like Bret Bielema.

Ward had an impressive press conference on his return to Champaign and seems to be a jubilant personality. Not only does he have a head coach who cares, he also is surrounded by great recruiters on this current staff. Aaron Henry, Andy Buh, George McDonald and Bart Miller have all hauled in some quality recruits. I fully expect Coach Ward to do the same.

Exactly what the Illini needed.

After Cory Patterson and Kevin Kane followed Ryan Walters to Purdue, Illinois needed to replace its assistants wisely. Charlie Bullen is a young, up and coming coach with NFL experience, however is unproven in the recruiting world. They needed an Ace recruiter to fill the likes of all three assistants that left. Thad Ward fits that bill.

Additionally, Kendrick Foster and Reggie Corbin had some damn good seasons for Illinois under Thad Ward. Though it’s hard to pinpoint the success of these backs on a coach, I am sure Ward will get the most out of a very deep running back room that needs to unlock its potential

Time after time, Bret Bielema seems to make the right decision. I have no doubt that Thad Ward is another one of those decisions.

Alex is the Owner of, your go-to source for in depth coverage of the Illinois Fighting Illini. Alex is also the lead content creator and lead editor of all articles on Armchair Illini. He has had articles featured in top media publications like Bleacher Report, YardBarker, Verbal Commits, CBS Sports and more.