CHAMPAIGN — The Illinois board of trustees has one less agenda item to deal with Thursday. And Tim Beckman needs another assistant coach.
Offensive line coach Jim Bridge’s two-year contract was scheduled to be approved this week. Instead, Bridge has left to join the Purdue staff in the same position.
Beckman immediately begins the search for an offensive line coach, the sixth change to his staff since the end of the 2012 season.
“It’s an unfortunate situation,” Beckman said. “Now, we’re moving forward. We’re going to get people who want to be here.”
Beckman expects to be able to fill the position quickly. During Tuesday’s practice, new offensive coordinator Bill Cubit and graduate assistant Drew Nystrom worked with the linemen.
“Drew’s been around this program and played for us,” Beckman said. “He’s a great, great worker and did a good job with the offensive line.”
Beckman isn’t the only Big Ten coach having to deal with recent departures. New Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen didn’t hide his frustration with Jay Boulware, who left to coach at Oklahoma.
“I hired him,” Andersen said. “It’s my fault. It’s upsetting, and I brought the wrong guy in here. We’ll be better off as we move forward. Hopefully, it happens quickly over the next several days. It’s my responsibility to get the right coaches in here. I don’t like the timing of it. I don’t like the situation that we’re in at all, but we’ll get a coach in here that’s as excited about Wisconsin football and wants to be here in the worst way, and he’ll do a tremendous job.”
Heat check. On another snowy March day, Beckman was happy to have the Irwin Indoor Practice Facility available. The team had one indoor workout during Beckman’s first spring.
The plan is to be outside as often as possible, maybe as early as Thursday.
“A good practice for the first day,” Beckman said. “Of course, we’ve got a new offense so there were a couple things offensively, getting lined up, doing those things, but defensively I was happy with the things we did. And I thought our players practiced hard.”
On-the-job training. Learning a new offense is nothing new for quarterback Reilly O’Toole, Nathan Scheelhaase’s projected backup.
“We’re kind of used to it,” O’Toole said. “Nate’s been in four offenses. I’ve been in three. You’ve got to try to get everybody on the same page. It’s been good. Today for the most part, mentally I was pretty good.”
The offense isn’t the only thing new for O’Toole. His head looks a lot different. For the first time in years, he is letting his hair grow out. So are teammates Scheelhaase, Miles Osei, Ryan Lankford and Steve Hull.
“We’re not going to cut it until the summer,” O’Toole said. “This is the longest it has ever been. It’s always been a buzz cut.”