Purdue hires Illinois defensive coordinator Ryan Walters as head coach

Purdue looked into 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 experienced a meteoric rise in the coaching ranks, going from graduate assistant to head coach in about 10 years.

“We are thrilled to have Coach Ryan Walters and his family join us here at Purdue University,” said Purdue athletic director Mike Bobinski. “From an early point in the search process, Coach Walters stood out for 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 largely due to to his unique ability to connect with his student-athletes as both a coach and mentor.

CHAMPAIGN, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Defensive Coordinator Ryan Walters of the Illinois Fighting Illini is seen during the game against the Michigan State Spartans at Memorial Stadium on November 5, 2022 in Champaign, Illinois.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
CHAMPAIGN, IL – NOVEMBER 05: Defensive Coordinator Ryan Walters of the Illinois Fighting Illini is seen during the game against the Michigan State Spartans at Memorial Stadium on November 5, 2022 in Champaign, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Walters played safety at Colorado from 2004 to 2008 before entering the coaching profession. Along the way, he stopped in Arizona, Oklahoma, North Texas, and Memphis before spending six years in Missouri.

At Mizzou, Walters went from safety coach to co-defensive coordinator to defensive coordinator before being lured from Columbia to Illinois to become 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 to No. 2 this season.

In 2022, Illinois has only allowed 263.8 yards per game and 4.26 yards per game. Both rank second nationally.

Now Walters remains 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 head football coach at Purdue University,” said Walters. “I am grateful to Athletics Director Mike Bobinski and President Daniels for this incredible opportunity. Purdue is a world-class university and our football program will pursue the same excellence displayed on our campus. My wife Tara and I, along with our boys, are beyond excited to join the communities of Purdue and West Lafayette.”

Walters has agreed to a five-year contract, the school said.

Purdue, which won the Big Ten West this season, will face LSU in the Citrus Bowl on January 2. said.

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