Purdue hires Illinois defensive coordinator Ryan Walters as head coach
Purdue looked within the Big Ten to find its new head coach.
The school announced Tuesday that it has hired Illinois defensive coordinator Ryan Walters as head coach, replacing Jeff Brohm. Brohm left Purdue after six seasons to return to Louisville, his alma mater.
Walters, 36, has had a quick rise through the coaching ranks, going from graduate assistant to head coach in about a 10-year span.
"We are thrilled for Coach Ryan Walters and his family to join us here at Purdue University," Purdue athletic director Mike Bobinski said. "From an early point in the search process, Coach Walters stood out because of the energy, passion and intelligence he displayed as a defensive coordinator in both the Big Ten Conference and Southeastern Conference. His meteoric rise in the coaching profession is in large part due to his unique ability to connect with his student-athletes as both a coach and mentor.”
Walters played safety at Colorado from 2004 to 2008 before entering the coaching profession. Along the way, he had stops at Arizona, Oklahoma, North Texas and Memphis before a six-year stay at Missouri.
At Mizzou, Walters went from safeties coach to co-defensive coordinator to defensive coordinator before being lured away from Columbia to Illinois to be Bret Bielema’s defensive coordinator with the Illini. The Illinois defense thrived under Walters’ tutelage, going from No. 114 in total defense in 2020 to No. 49 in 2021 and all the way up to No. 2 this season.
In 2022, Illinois has allowed only 263.8 yards per game and 4.26 yards per play. Both rank second nationally.
Now Walters will stay in the Big Ten West for his first head-coaching job at Purdue. He becomes the fourth-youngest FBS head coach behind Kenny Dillingham (Arizona State), Kane Wommack (South Alabama) and Dan Lanning (Oregon).
"I am incredibly humbled and honored to serve as the head football coach at Purdue University," Walters said. "I am grateful to Director of Athletics Mike Bobinski and to President Daniels for this incredible opportunity. Purdue is a world-class university, and our football program will pursue the same excellence exhibited across our campus. My wife Tara and I, along with our boys, are beyond excited to join the Purdue and West Lafayette communities."
Walters has agreed to a five-year contract, the school said.
Purdue, which won the Big Ten West this season, is set to face LSU in the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 2. Walters will “spend the remainder of the month appointing his staff, recruiting and observing Purdue's preparation” for the bowl, the school said.