Illinois football coach Lovie Smith is adding another coach with ties to his time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Donnie Abraham, a former NFL Pro Bowler, is leaving as the defensive coordinator at IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) to become a defensive assistant, likely in the secondary, according to multiple reports.
Illinois has not announced the move.
Abraham, a third-round pick in 1996, played with the Bucs from 1996 to 2001 and the New York Jets from 2002 to 2004.
Hardy Nickerson, another former Buc and teammate of Abraham’s, is the Illinois defensive coordinator and is expected to coach the linebackers to replace linebackers coach Tim McGarigle, who took a position as a defensive analyst with the Green Bay Packers. McGarigle’s departure created a staff opening.
Abraham spent 10 years as a high school coach in the Tampa area, including three seasons at Clearwater High. He joined Kevin Wright’s staff at IMG last season. Those connections should help Illinois add to its recruiting presence in Florida.
Wide receivers coach Andrew Hayes-Stoker coached under Smith with the Bucs and Bears as did defensive line coach Mike Phair.
Illinois touts that its coaching staff has the most NFL experience of any program in the nation. Abraham’s expected addition strengthens that claim.