Bielema makes changes to defensive staff

Jan. 11—CHAMPAIGN — Bret Bielema didn't make immediate changes to his coaching staff for the 2024 season.

But roughly 11/2 months after losing to Northwestern in the season finale on Nov. 25, the Illinois football coach announced a shakeup to his defensive staff on Thursday evening.

Linebackers coach Andy Buh and defensive backs coach Antonio Fenelus won't return for the 2024 season. Buh was part of Bielema's initial staff at Illinois and had just completed his third season with the Illini. Fenelus didn't join the Illini until after the 2022 season when Ryan Walters left to become the Purdue coach and Aaron Henry was promoted to defensive coordinator.

"After a review of our football program and the 2023 season, I have informed Andy Buh and Antonio Fenelus that they will not return to our coaching staff," Bielema said in a statement. "I appreciate the commitment that they have made to our program here at Illinois. I have tremendous respect for both Coach Buh and Coach Fenelus — dating back to when they were an assistant and a player for me during my time at Wisconsin — and I wish them the best moving forward."

Illinois was the 12th school for Buh in his coaching career, and he had served as a defensive coordinator at Rutgers (2019), Maryland (2016-18) and Nevada (2010-11).

Fenelus played for Bielema at Wisconsin and was teammates with Henry during their time playing with the Badgers under Bielema in the early 2010s.

Illinois was his first full-time assistant coaching role after Fenelus spent the 2022 season as an analyst at LSU.

Illinois went 5-7 in 2023, failing to capitalize on the momentum of an eight-win 2022 season and a ReliaQuest Bowl appearance.

The Illini defense, which was one of the best in the country during the 2022 season, regressed last fall. The Illini finished 61st in total defense (377.2 yards) and 93rd in scoring defense (29.4 points) in the country during Henry's first season calling the defense.