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#pounditSunday, May 9, 2021

Lovie Smith explains why his defensive scheme failed at Illinois

Lovie Smith

Lovie Smith’s hiring at Illinois was hailed as a coup by many, but the longtime NFL coach ended up doing little to turn the program around. Now that he’s back in the NFL, he thinks he knows why.

Smith said he felt he was not able to implement his entire defensive system at Illinois, as he found college offenses running primarily three receiver sets. That, he said, forced Illinois to remain in its base defense, and his nickel packages were rarely used.

“In college we weren’t able to run our entire system,” Smith said, via Doug Samuels of Football Scoop. “Most of the time offenses go three receivers, we kept our base defense on the field. We didn’t play our nickel packages much. So I think our defense is more suited for the NFL game and we’ll make the tweaks and things like that.”

Smith recently joined the Houston Texans as the new defensive coordinator, where he’s likely to be far more comfortable. That said, you could argue that Smith couldn’t really adapt to the college game and needed to be more flexible when it came to tweaking his system.

Smith’s triumphs at Illinois were plenty memorable, but they were few and far between. He went just 17-39 with the Fighting Illini and only made one bowl appearance.

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