Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports



San Francisco 49ers inside linebackers coach Hardy Nickerson will be leaving his new NFL post for the college ranks. Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel is reporting that Nickerson is expected to join his former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach, Lovie Smith, at the University of Illinois.


Nickerson was not retained when the Buccaneers fired Smith and promoted offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter as their new head coach. Nickerson was just hired to the 49ers' staff in January, just five days after interviewing with the team. The hire was praised by fans as a solid addition to new head coach Chip Kelly's coaching staff.

As a player, Nickerson was a five-time Pro Bowl player after being selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the fifth round of the 1987 NFL Draft out of Cal.

The 49ers would still have outside linebackers coach Jason Tarver on staff if Nickerson were to depart to join his former boss.