WEST LAFAYETTE, IN – One of the key members of the Illinois football coaching staff that helped the team’s big turnaround in 2022 is headed to a Big Ten rival.

Purdue has hired Illini defensive coordinator Ryan Walters as their new head coach to replace Jeff Brohm, who took the job at Louisville. It’s his first head coaching job of his career which included two seasons in Champaign with the Illini.

At 36 years old, Walters is the fourth-youngest head coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

“I am incredibly humbled and honored to serve as the head football coach at Purdue University,” said Walters in a statement released by Purdue Athletics. “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. Boiler Up!”

Walters spent the last two seasons at Illinois after being hired as part of Bret Bielema’s first coaching staff at the school and aided a complete transformation of the defense. Ranked 97th in scoring and 114th in yards allowed in 2020, the unit was No. 1 in FBS in points allowed (12.3 per game) and second in yardage (263.8 per game).

The defense was a big reason the Illini finished the 2022 season with an 8-4 record – their best since 2007 – and earned a trip to the ReliaQuest Bowl on January 2 against Mississippi State in Tampa.

“Congratulations to Coach Walters on taking the head coaching job at Purdue. Ryan is a talented coach with a bright future. We thank him and his family for everything they did for our program,” said Bielema in a statement released by Illinois athletics.  “This is something that I had seen coming for a while now. We have had a plan in place that we will unveil in the coming weeks that will position Illinois Football for sustained success in 2023 and for years to come.”

A native of Los Angeles, Walters began his coaching career at his alma mater Colorado as a student assistant in 2009 before becoming a graduate assistant at Arizona the next year. He became a defensive backs coach for the Wildcats in 2011 before going to Oklahoma as a graduate assistant/cornerbacks coach in 2012.

After stops as a coach in that position in 2013 at North Texas and 2014 at Memphis, Walters began a six-year stop at Missouri where he would become a co-defensive coordinator in 2016 and then had the position on his own from 2018-2020.