Lovie Smith Replacements: Top 10 Candidates For The Next Illinois Football Head Coach

Illinois Football announced Lovie Smith is fired as head coach, meaning it is now searching for the next Illinois head coach. So who are the top candidates to replace Lovie Smith as the Illini head coach? We’ve got the top Illinois head coach targets and some realistic options. 

Lovie Smith’s firing won’t be that expensive: the buyout is allegedly just $2 million. After 5 years, it was clear that it was time for Smith to go. 

There are some big names Illinois could hire, like Luke Fickell, but just how attractive is the Illinois job right now? Would the top coach candidates want to take the Fighting Illini head coaching job?   

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Illinois Football could go with a coordinator hire, and there are some interesting options there. Fickell is unlikely, but what about his DC in Marcus Freeman? Perhaps Todd Monken (Georgia OC), Todd Manning (Iowa State OC) and Jim Leonhard (Wisconsin DC) could be fits. And what about former Wisconsin HC Bret Bielema. 

Proven coaches should be high on Illinois head coach candidate list and there are several who make sense. They are at smaller schools, but Sean Lewis, Lance Leipold, Jeff Monken and Jason Candle have done solid jobs. The track record of MAC coaches at Illinois isn’t the best, but that’s not a reason to not look at a coach candidate.  

Here’s the full Top 10 Candidates List: 
#10 Luke Fickell, Cincinnati HC
#9 Jason Candle, Toledo HC
#8 Tom Manning, Iowa State OC
#7 Bret Bielema, NYG Asst
#6 Todd Monken, Georgia OC
#5 Jim Leonhard, Wisconsin DC
#4 Marcus Freeman, Cincinnati DC
#3 Jeff Monken, Army HC
#2 Sean Lewis, Kent State HC
#1 Lance Leipold, Buffalo HC

FOLLOW: Tom Downey is the Senior Writer & On-Air Host at Chat Sports. Please follow him on Twitter @Whatgoingdowney. 

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