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.