Northwestern is hiring Las Vegas Raiders defensive backs coach Jim O’Neil as defensive coordinator, sources told ESPN.
O’Neil, the former defensive coordinator for both the San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns, will replace Mike Hankwitz, who retired after 51 years as a college coach, the past 13 at Northwestern.
The 42-year-old O’Neil worked alongside Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald as defensive assistants in 2003 and 2004 under then-coach Randy Walker. He also spent three seasons at Eastern Michigan working under Jeff Genyk, now Northwestern’s special teams coordinator.
In 2020, Northwestern ranked fifth nationally in points allowed (15.9 ppg), 11th in yards per play allowed (4.86 ypp) and led the nation in red-zone touchdown percentage allowed (29.6%). The defense propelled Northwestern to its second Big Ten West Division title in three years and a No. 10 finish in the final polls.
Northwestern loses standouts such as linebacker Paddy Fisher, cornerback Greg Newsome II and end Earnest Brown IV, but returns All-America safety Brandon Joseph, linebacker Chris Bergin and others.