WVU football: Former assistant gets promotion to Illinois

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 14: A detail of Antonio Brown
PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 14: A detail of Antonio Brown /

The Rich Rodriguez era of WVU football is long over and that’s a good thing on many accounts. Rodriguez was recently shamefully exiled from the Arizona program.

However, a number of his assistants are now also without work. A good amount of his staff members at Arizona were at one time part of Rodriguez’s staff at West Virginia. Some even had lifelong ties to the state.

Rod Smith was one of those people. Even though a few weeks ago he may have been out of work, Smith is back on track and moving up in his career. He was just hired to be the offensive coordinator at Illinois, according to the Herald-Review.

Smith hails from Franklin, West Virginia. He is just a small town boy who has made it big in the world of college athletics. His connection to Rodriguez began at Glenville State College where Rich Rodriguez was head coach in the late 1980s. Glenville is about two hours south of Morgantown and it has been a launching pad for other former WVU athletes in recent years. Former WVU football star Quincy Wilson, a Weirton, West Virginia native, and WVU basketball standout Rob Summers, both coached there at one point.

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Smith was only at West Virginia as quarterbacks coach for one year. He bolted with Rodriguez to Michigan following the 2007 season. He also had a brief stint at Indiana before joining Rodriguez at Arizona for six seasons.

So, he has Big Ten experience and will be counted on to reload the Illinois program which seems to float around in no man’s land in the conference. Illinois won’t compete for the title and they won’t always be at the bottom. Smith will be counted on to lead an explosive offense and coach up the playmakers, like he had a chance to do with Pat White at West Virginia and Denard Robinson at Michigan.

Even though he didn’t wear the gold and blue very long, Smith has a unique connection to the WVU football team. His career didn’t begin or end with the Mountaineers and he is doing something good with his career, thanks in part to West Virginia.

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West Virginia is a noticeable cradle of coaches with big names like Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher being born and raised in the state. Those are the two most notable ones, but a whole host of other native of the Mountain State have gone on to lead at other programs.