Big Ten: A.J. Ricker

It's often said that the only news in the summertime in college football is bad news.

That usually applies only to players, but as Illinois learned on Wednesday, it can apply to coaches as well. Less than a month before the start of fall camp, the Fighting Illini are looking for a new offensive line coach after assistant A.J. Ricker left for the same post at Missouri.

Ricker is a Mizzou graduate who will take over for Bruce Walker, who retired earlier this month. And now Tim Beckman is making yet another change with his offensive line coaching position.

Beckman is now looking for his fourth O-line coach in four seasons in Champaign, as Ricker came aboard before last season. The Illini made great strides on offense under first-year offensive coordinator Bill Cubit in 2013, and Ricker had worked as an assistant under Cubit at Western Michigan for a couple of years, making that transition smoother.

It's not a great time to be trying to hire a coach. Then again, Illinois should be used to it, as Jim Bridge left for Purdue right before spring practice began last year. Ricker replaced him, and things worked out OK. The Illini obviously have less time to seek a replacement this time around. Beckman has to get someone in place in the next couple of weeks and hope that person can mesh with the rest of the staff and the line, where there are three returning starters.

This isn't the best situation, which is typical in the aftermath of college football news in the summer.
Illinois' turbulent offseason took another turn Tuesday when offensive line coach Jim Bridge bolted for Purdue on the same day as the Illini opened spring practice.

Fortunately for the Illini, Bridge's replacement will be on the field for the team's second spring workout later today in Champaign. According to multiple reports, Illinois has hired A.J. Ricker as offensive line coach. Coachingsearch.com's Pete Roussel first reported Ricker's hiring at Illinois, and a source also confirmed the move to The (Champaign) News-Gazette.

Although Illinois' offensive linemen must familiarize themselves with another new coach -- their third since the end of the season -- Ricker won't need to introduce himself to new Illini offensive coordinator Bill Cubit. Ricker served as Cubit's offensive line coach and run-game coordinator at Western Michigan for the past two seasons. He was hired last month as offensive tackles/tight ends coach at Middle Tennessee.

A four-year starter at center for Missouri from 2000-03, Ricker played briefly in NFL Europe and the Arena league before starting his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Western Michigan. He spent two years at St. Joseph's College in Indiana, serving as head coach in 2010, before returning to WMU.

Although Ricker doesn't have nearly as much as experience as Bridge, head coach Tim Beckman had to act quickly, and he found someone who knows Cubit's vision on offense. Illinois' staff overhaul is now complete for the second time.

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