Illinois' hiring of Hardy Nickerson is already paying big recruiting dividends in the form of Hardy Nickerson.
The son of the Illini's new defensive coordinator, who has the same name as his father, announced Thursday that he will come to Champaign as a graduate transfer.
A linebacker, the younger Nickerson spent the past four years with the California Golden Bears and was one of the team's best defensive players a season ago, leading Cal with 112 total tackles.
"After much thought, prayer and numerous discussions with my parents, I have decided to graduate from Cal and pursue a post-graduate degree at the University of Illinois in the fall," the younger Nickerson announced on his Twitter account. "A most unique opportunity presented itself when my father joined the Illinois football staff as their new defensive coordinator just last month. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play my final year of college football for my father and head coach Lovie Smith, and it is an opportunity that I simply cannot pass up."
In 35 career games with the Bears, Nickerson recorded 246 tackles, nine tackles for loss, one interception, two forced fumbles and a trio of fumble recoveries. He racked up double-digit tackles in each of Cal's last eight games last season. Nickerson was an All-Pac-12 honorable mention last year.
A graduate transfer, Nickerson will be immediately eligible to play at Illinois.
It's a huge addition for the Illini, who need to replace all three starting linebackers from a season ago.
The elder Nickerson had a terrific career as an NFL linebacker, making five Pro Bowls with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He worked as a Smith assistant for three seasons with the Bears and Buccaneers before joining Smith at Illinois this spring.
"It's a unique and exciting situation for the Nickerson family," Smith said in Illinois' announcement Thursday. "Hardy is a tremendous leader, and his outstanding work ethic will help the young players on our team. I'm very happy that he will get the chance to play for coach Nickerson in his final season as a college player."