SIU Football defensive coordinator resigns; replaced by Assistant Head Coach Antonio James

SIU Football training camp changes.
Published: Aug. 1, 2023 at 4:18 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 1, 2023 at 6:41 PM CDT
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CARBONDALE, Ill. (KFVS) - Southern Illinois University of Carbondale Head Football Coach Nick Hill announced Assistant Head Coach Antonio James will take over as the team’s defensive coordinator, to replace D.J. Vokolek, who resigned on Tuesday, August 1.

”This came out of the blue the day before training camp, but Coach Vokolek has to make decisions that are best for him and his family,” Hill said. “Saluki football moves on, and I’m super excited about Antonio James. Antonio is on staff, is ready to do it and is proven to do it at the FCS level. I think our guys will be excited to play for him.”

According to a release from Southern Illinois Athletics, James is entering his second season as SIU defensive line coach. He has previous Division I experience as a defensive coordinator, having served at Morgan State for four seasons from 2018 to 2021.

In 2017, James was named to the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) 30 Under 30 Coaches’ Leadership Institute. This summer, he was awarded a Bill Walsh coaching fellowship with the Chicago Bears, and worked with the NFL franchise during mini-camp and the first two weeks of training camp, according to the release.

“Antonio is a phenomenal coach and is so well-organized,” Hill said. “I have no reservations about him taking over our defense.”

As a player, James was a four-year letterman on the defensive line at the University of Illinois from 2006 to 2009, and helped lead the Fighting Illini to the 2008 Rose Bowl Game. He appeared in 46 career games with six starts, and finished his collegiate career with 40 tackles, six tackles-for-losses and two-and-a-half sacks.

Hill added special teams coordinator Gary McGraw, who served as pass-game coordinator and cornerbacks coach at Sam Houston State from 2016 to 2021, will take over Vokolek’s role as safeties coach.