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Former Illinois DC Tim Banks hired as Penn State assistant

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Penn State didn't have to look further than its own conference to fill its final staff opening.

Former Illinois co-defensive coordinator Tim Banks, who left the university last month to "pursue other interests," was announced as the Nittany Lions' co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Monday morning. He'll spearhead the defense alongside linebackers coach Brent Pry, who was promoted after Bob Shoop left for Tennessee.

“I am excited about having an opportunity to work with Coach [James] Franklin and his staff,” Banks said in a statement. “James is one of the brightest football minds in the country and it was just an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. Growing up in the Midwest, I saw Penn State play on TV almost every weekend and I know the history and tradition that this program has, so this is very much an honor and a humbling experience to join the Penn State family.”

Banks and Franklin worked together at Maryland for two overlapping seasons in 2003 and 2004. So the move makes sense in that regard -- although it was surprising on another level.

The former Illinois assistant left Champaign on Dec. 18 in what was deemed an amicable split, in part because Banks didn't like the idea of co-defensive coordinator Mike Phair taking on a bigger role. Banks still would've been a co-coordinator.

"I wanted to mesh it a little," head coach Bill Cubit said at the time, "and [Banks] wasn't comfortable."

It's unknown just how large of a role Banks will have as a coordinator with the Penn State defense. But Pry was widely regarded as the logical replacement, and it would be a shock if he wasn't calling the shots.

At any rate, this hire doesn't seem to be as big of an initial splash as Franklin's other two new hires this offseason. He picked up offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, an up-and-coming coach who turned FCS Fordham around in one offseason, and he tapped former Minnesota coordinator Matt Limegrover as the offensive line coach. Both are seen as big upgrades.

Banks, on the other hand, hasn't fared as well when it comes to the numbers. He took over the nation's No. 7 defense and saw it drop to No. 53 in his first season as coordinator and then to Nos. 110 and 109 the next two years. It wasn't until this past season that the Illini's defense showed significant progress -- improving to No. 30 in yards allowed -- right as Phair was hired to be the co-defensive coordinator.

On the plus side, Banks' secondary played quite well in 2015 and finished No. 15 nationally in passing yards allowed.

“I am excited to have Tim join our Penn State football family,” Franklin said in a statement. “Tim and I worked together at Maryland and built a great relationship there. He is a veteran coach with experience as a Big Ten coordinator and has strong Big Ten and regional recruiting ties. He is a fantastic person and will have a strong impact on our players and our program."