Per a statement released Tuesday afternoon, Northwestern football confirmed defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil will not be back with the Wildcats for the 2023 season. O’Neil will leave the program after just two seasons in Evanston.
Defensive line coach Marty Long and wide receiver coach Dennis Springer were also announced to no longer be on Northwestern’s staff.
The release came minutes after ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg reported the news.
Sources: #Northwestern has fired defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil, defensive line coach Marty Long and wide receivers coach Dennis Springer.— Adam Rittenberg (@ESPNRittenberg) November 29, 2022
O’Neil’s dismissal comes on the heels of two straight seasons in which Northwestern failed to win more than three games. Under his watch, the defense surrendered 29 points per game in 2021 and 28.3 points per contest in 2022.
Prior to joining the Wildcats in January 2021, O’Neil served as the defensive backs coach for the Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders from 2019 through the end of the 2020 NFL season. In addition to holding a variety of coaching positions before his time with the Raiders, the former Northwestern coordinator also worked as the defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns from 2014 to 2015 and the San Francisco 49ers in 2016.
With seniors Adetomiwa Adebawore and A.J. Hampton having played their final snaps in purple and white, O’Neil’s departure adds another question mark for a Northwestern defense that is set to undergo significant reconstruction this offseason. Fitzgerald will begin the search for NU’s fourth defensive coordinator during his 17-year head coaching tenure.
Springer was hired in January 2011 as NU’s wide receiver coach, helping to oversee talents like Austin Carr, Ben Skowronek, Flynn Nagel, Riley Lees, Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman, Jeremy Ebert and more. However, Wildcat receivers did little to impress the last two years, with Malik Washington the only WR to accumulate more than 300 receiving yards in 2022. Despite talent in the room, there were few complements or consistently open pass-catchers on the perimeter for quarterbacks.
Long had been Northwestern’s defensive line coach since 2008, a group that produced legitimate NFL talent in Joe Gaziano, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Dean Lowry and Adebawore. Six of the Wildcats’ top-10 sack artists came under Long’s guidance. Further, Long was highly touted as a recruiter, helping bring Devin O’Rourke, Mason Robinson and Anto Saka to Evanston in recent years.
With these moves occurring just three days into Northwestern’s offseason following its 1-11 campaign, it is possible that more changes may be on the way.