Zook Press Conference
Zook Press Conference
Illinois looking to improve to 7-0 on the season
Illinois photos by Mark Cowan and AP photos from today's game.
Illinois at No. 21 Penn State Photos - 10/29/11. Photos from AP and Mark Jones
Head coach Ron Zook shares his photographs and insight from the USO Coaches Tour - May 22-31, 2010.
Photos from the press conference announcing the hiring of new offensive coordinator Paul Petrino
Ron Zook served as head coach at Illinois for seven seasons from 2005-11. Known as a tireless worker and recruiter, Zook led Illinois to the biggest turnaround in college football in 2007 and to a Texas Bowl victory in 2010 and to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in 2011.
In Zook's seven years at the helm, the Illini offense led the conference in rushing three times (2006, 2007, 2010) and passing in 2008. Additionally, the rushing offense finished in the NCAA top-20 four times during his tenure and the defense finished inside the NCAA top-10 in his final year in 2011. Zook produced three first-round NFL draft picks between 2008 and 2011 -- RB Rashard Mendenhall in 2008, DB Vontae Davis in 2009 and DT Corey Liuget in 2011.
In 2011, Zook led Illinois to a 6-0 start, the program's best start in 60 years, and a berth in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. Though Zook did not coach the bowl game, the Illini went on to defeat UCLA, 20-14, giving Illinois bowl wins in back-to-back years for the first time in school history. The 2011 team was a defensive juggernaut, ranking ranking in the top-10 nationally in pass defense (third), tackles-for-loss (fourth), sacks (sixth) and total defense (seventh). Defensive end Whitney Mercilus led the way, earning consensus first-team All-America honors after leading the nation in sacks (16.0) and forced fumbles (9).
In 2010, Zook led the Illini to a 7-6 record after a 38-14 victory over Baylor in the Texas Bowl, Illinois' first bowl win since 1999. Running back Mikel Leshoure rewrote the Illini record book in 2010, breaking the single-season rushing record with 1,697 yards, single-game rushing yards (330 vs. Northwestern on Nov. 20), total touchdowns (20), rushing touchdowns (17) and 100-yard rushing games (9). Illinois led the Big Ten in rushing for the third time in the last five seasons, ranked 11th in the country in rushing and broke school records for total points scored (423) and points per game (32.54). The defense also ranked second in the Big Ten in tackles for loss and sacks while improving 53 places in the national rankings for total defense from 91st in 2009 to 38th in 2010.
In 2009, Illinois quarterback Juice Williams set numerous milestone records, including career total offense where he surpassed the 10,000-yard mark, becoming only the sixth player in Big Ten history to do so. The Illini finished second in the league and 17th in the nation in rushing.
During the 2008 season, the Illini offense continued to rank among the top in the conference. After leading the Big Ten in rushing for two seasons, the squad posted the league's best passing numbers in 2008. Not only did the team lead the Big Ten in passing, but Williams was the leader in passing and total offense. On the flipside, defensively, the squad led the Big Ten in quarterback sacks and tackles for loss and middle linebacker Brit Miller was tops in tackles.
In 2007, Zook led the Illini back to the national scene with a nine-win season (the eighth in school history), a second-place finish in the Big Ten and a trip to the Rose Bowl. The seven-win turnaround from the 2006 season also is the best ever in the Illinois record books, earning him numerous national Coach of the Year finalist honors and the title of Liberty Mutual 2007 National Coach of the Year.
In 2006, Illinois' 188.8 yards per game rushing ranked No. 1 in the Big Ten and defensively, the team shaved over 100 rushing yards per game off its 2005 totals. It was the school's best rushing performance since 1973. For the second-straight year, Zook signed a nationally ranked recruiting class, one that landed among the top-15, arguably the highest-rated in school history.
In 2005 at Illinois, Zook led the team to wins in the first two games of his career in Champaign. In the season opener, he tied a school record with a 20-point comeback victory against Rutgers to jump start his second stint as a Division I head coach. Zook became the first Illinois head coach since Mike White to win the first two games of his career as an Illini.
In 2006, Zook saw a different kind of accomplishment, this one at his previous stop, as the University of Florida won the 2007 National Championship. While not at the helm of the program, Zook recruited and brought to Florida 22 of the 24 starters on that championship squad. In fact, Zook has had his hand in two of UF's three national championship football teams and all but two of the program's SEC titles. He was either a coach of or recruited a majority of the players involved in that winning tradition.
Zook has now logged 35 years of coaching experience at the collegiate, professional and high school level, including two stints as a head coach. He led the University of Florida program for three years, 2002-2004. Posting an overall mark of 23-14 and 16-8 in Southeastern Conference action, Zook led UF to three consecutive bowl appearances and a share of the 2003 SEC East Division title. Zook's 12-3 record vs. the SEC Eastern Division during his three years tied for the best in the league during that time. He tallied six wins against ranked teams away from Gainesville, the best in the nation in his three-year stretch, and he became only the third coach in the 70-year history of the SEC to lead his teams to January bowl games in his first two years.
Zook's 2004 Gator squad featured just eight returning starters, the fifth-lowest total among the 117 Division I teams, and featured the youngest defense in the SEC with eight freshmen or sophomore starters. Despite having three games affected by hurricanes and playing 11 consecutive weeks of football, the Gators secured their 17th consecutive season of winning football, the longest active streak in the SEC. Florida saved its best for last in 2004, defeating No. 8 Florida State, 20-13, to become the first UF team to win in Tallahassee since 1986. Florida finished the regular season leading the SEC in six team categories, including the top scoring offense, the top passing offense and the top total offense. Florida became only the second team in SEC history to have the top rusher in the league, the top passer, the leading receiver and the leading scorer.
Zook's first season in Gainesville, 2002, produced wins over Tennessee, Auburn and Georgia and a perfect record in the SEC Eastern Division. Zook became the only first-year coach in Gator history to defeat two top-five teams in his first season in Gainesville with a win over fourth-ranked Tennessee and fifth-ranked Georgia. Against a schedule that ranked as the sixth-toughest in the nation, the Gators ranked 24th in the final ESPN/USA Today Poll and extended their school record of consecutive January bowl appearances to 10. The 2002 Gator offense, which led the Southeastern Conference in total offense and passing, set school records for most offensive plays, passing attempts and completions. Florida's pass defense ranked seventh-best in the nation, while just two opposing quarterbacks totaled more than 200 yards passing during the regular season.
Zook's tireless efforts began on the recruiting front at Florida. In just three years, Zook signed 10 Parade All-Americans after Florida had inked 20 in the previous 12 years. He signed six in the 2003 class, just one shy of the school record set by the 1987 class. The 2003 class ranked among the top three nationally.
He came to the Gators from a position as defensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints, where his units led the NFL in quarterback sacks over the 2000-2001 period with 119, and ranked third in the NFC in total defense in 2000. He coached for three NFL franchises (Pittsburgh, Kansas City and New Orleans), including division championship teams with the Steelers in l996-97 and the Saints in 2000.
On the collegiate level, Zook coached on five SEC championship teams (four at Florida and one at Tennessee), at four schools that are members of college football's BCS conferences (SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Big East) and has participated in 17 bowl games (three as a player, 14 as a coach). During his five years as an assistant at Florida (1991-95), the Gators won four SEC titles, played in the 1996 national championship game and finished each year ranked in the nation's top 10.
Zook was born on April 28, 1954, in Loudonville, Ohio. He is a 1976 graduate of Miami of Ohio, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in comprehensive science. He was a three-year letter winning defensive back from 1973-75 and was captain of the 1975 team. Miami posted a 32-1-1 record during that period, winning three straight Mid-American Conference titles and posting three consecutive Tangerine Bowl victories.
Zook is married to the former Denise Baugh, and the couple has two daughters, Jacquelyn and Casey. Jacquelyn is currently an actress in Los Angeles and Casey graduated from the University of Illinois with a bachelor's degree in elementary education in May 2009.
Date of Birth: April 28, 1954
Hometown: Loudonville, Ohio
Family: Wife-Denise; Daughters-Jacquelyn and Casey
Education: B.S. comprehensive science Miami (OH), 1976
Playing Experience: Miami University (OH) (1973-75)