Illini DB Coach David Gibbs Resigns After Just 70 Days Due to Medical Issue

David Gibbs

Just over two months after being hired, David Gibbs has resigned his defensive backs coach position at the University of Illinois.

In a statement released by the Illinois athletics department via Illini head football coach Bret Bielema, the reason for Gibbs’ sudden resignation and stepping away from the coaching profession is an undisclosed medical issue.

“Coach Gibbs has resigned from his position on the Illinois coaching staff and will be temporarily stepping away from coaching for medical reasons,” Bielema’s written statement via the Illinois athletics department reads. “We appreciate the contributions David has made since his arrival and wish him and his family all the best moving forward.”

Bielema is slated to address this issue with media via a Zoom media conference on Monday afternoon.

Bielema announced in late January the hiring of 30-year coaching veteran David Gibbs as his third defensive backs coach since Bielema’s arrival at Illinois. Gibbs, who was also have the title of associate head coach, replaced Antonio Fenelus on the Illinois staff after Bielema announced on Jan. 11 that he and inside linebackers coach Andy Buh were terminated. 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.”

In his first and only media appearance inside the Smith Family Football Complex in Champaign, Gibbs ironically gave a rousing defense for the fact that his predecessor, Antonio Fenelus, probably shouldn’t have been fired after just one season.

“For what I was able to watch (on film), you had three DBs get drafted (after the 2022 season), man. I mean, seriously, what did we all think was going to happen?” Gibbs said on Feb. 7. “Coordinator leaves and becomes a head coach. You have three DBs drafted and all three all starting by midseason in the NFL. I mean, c’mon. There’s going to be a learning curve and a transition process.”

One of the changes being made in this offseason is Illinois head coach Bret Bielema demanded his defensive secondary staff go back to what Bielema believes works after allowing then-defensive coordinator Ryan Walters in 2021 and 2022 to split up the meeting rooms between cornerbacks and safeties. Gibbs and Henry will be in the same meeting room with all of the secondary players, and they’ll only be split up during individual positional drills when Gibbs will coach the cornerbacks along with the nickel position so Henry can take over the control of both safety spots.

A temporary option Illinois could lean on during this spring practice season could defensive analyst Kevin Richardson. Richardson rejoined the Illini from Long Island University, where he spent the 2022 season as defensive backs coach. Richardson led Long Island's defensive backs to a substantial rise in 2022. Long Island led the NEC in interceptions with 13, including 11 by defensive backs. Long Island defensive back Victor Nelson Jr. was named an All-American after ranking second in the FCS with six interceptions. Richardson previously served as a defensive graduate assistant at Illinois in 2021. Prior to his first year at Illinois, he coached defensive backs at Northeastern State (Division II) in 2020 and served as a graduate assistant at NAIA’s MidAmerica Nazarene in 2019. Richardson is reunited with his college head coach Bret Bielema, who he played for at Arkansas. Richardson played in 48 games for Arkansas from 2013-18 as a defensive back, recording 125 tackles, four interceptions, eight pass breakups, while also serving as a team captain and earning Phil Steele All-SEC third team honors in 2017.

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.
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.

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