Illini Announce Hire of Veteran DB Coach David Gibbs

Illinois bringing in 30-year coaching veteran David Gibbs to guide a youthful and inexperienced secondary returning for the 2024 season.

By Matt Stevens - IlliniGuys Football Writer/Analyst

January 23, 2024

CHAMPAIGN — The Illinois football coaching staff will certainly have much more experience at the college level guiding the defensive backs.

Illini head coach Bret Bielema announced Tuesday the hiring of 30-year coaching veteran David Gibbs as his third defensive backs coach since Bielema’s arrival at Illinois. Gibbs, who will also have the title of associate head coach, is replacing Antonio Fenelus on the Illinois staff after Bielema announced on Jan. 11 that he and inside linebackers coach Andy Buh were being fired. Fenelus spent just over a calendar year with the Illinois program after being named Illinois' new defensive backs coach on Dec. 30, 2022 once Aaron Henry, who was Bielema’s first defensive backs coach in Champaign, was officially promoted to defensive coordinator before the 2023 ReliaQuest Bowl.

Gibbs is a 32-year veteran of the coaching industry, including 14 seasons as a coordinator in college football and nine seasons as a defensive backs coach for three National Football League franchises.

"I have known and respected David for over 30 years in this profession," said Bielema via the university’s media release. "I have seen the results of his coaching on the field and his recruiting efforts on many different occasions. He brings a great amount of value and experience that will immediately impact our football program here at Illinois.”

For the last three seasons, Gibbs was the defensive backs coach at Central Florida during a stretch where the Knights played its way into the 2022 American Athletic Conference Championship Game with a defense ranking first in the league nationally in red-zone defense and held seven opponents to 20 or fewer points and allowed just 23.6 points per game overall. However, in its first year in the Big 12 Conference, UCF stumbled to a 6-7 record despite leaning on the league’s best pass defense (196.7 yards per game) and allowed just two opponents last season to top 260 passing yards in a game. Following the program’s first losing season since 2016, Knights head coach Gus Malzahn made a change at defensive coordinator by bringing in veteran defensive coordinator Ted Roof, who recently was coordinating the defense at Oklahoma. With a new defensive boss hired at UCF, Gibbs elected to move on to his eighth different full-time job at a major college program by joining Bielema’s staff at Illinois.

“I have watched Coach Bielema's teams for a long time, and I have always been impressed with how they play the game,” said Gibbs via a university release.

Like Buh, Gibbs brings a vast amount of experience coordinating defenses at the college level after having the job at Texas Tech, Houston, Auburn and Minnesota. Prior to his tenure as defensive backs coach with the National Football League’s Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans, Gibbs became the youngest coordinator on the Football Bowl Subdivision level at the time, as the then-29-year-old took over as defensive coordinator at Minnesota in 1997 under then-head coach Glenn Mason. Gibbs improved a Minnesota defense that had ranked last in the Big Ten in 1996 to a unit ranked eighth in the nation in pass efficiency defense and scoring defense by 1999. Under Gibbs' tutelage, Minnesota's Tyrone Carter won the 1999 Jim Thorpe Award and back-to-back All-America honors in 1998 and 1999.

Gibbs was the secondary coach at Missouri in 2019 and 2020--after spending four seasons as defensive coordinator (2015-18) at Texas Tech, where his defenses became known as some of the top turnover-creating units in the country.

Gibbs inherits a youthful Illinois secondary that had four Illinois true freshmen play through the four-game redshirt limit during the 2023 campaign (Jaheim Clarke, Saboor Karriem, Mac Resetich and Zachary Tobe) while also losing consistent cornerback starter Tahveon Nicholson to the transfer portal this offseason.

 

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