By BOB ASMUSSEN
CHAMPAIGN — That didn’t take long.
Two days after an unexpected departure on his staff, Tim Beckman filled the position Thursday, hiring A.J. Ricker as his offensive line coach. Ricker started immediately, working Thursday’s afternoon practice.
The former Missouri center joined the Illini after a brief stay at Middle Tennessee State. He spent the 2011-12 seasons on Bill Cubit’s Western Michigan staff. Cubit is Illinois’ new offensive coordinator.
“The first thing is, he’s a good person, and he fits into the family well,” Beckman said. “He’s got the background of being with Coach Cubit, so he can hit the field running. He’s got the terminology. He’s got all that stuff.”
The Texas native is the former head coach at St. Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind. He started his coaching career in 2006 as a graduate assistant at Western Michigan.
Beckman said Ricker was a coach he was interested in before hiring Jim Bridge, who left this week for Purdue.
“It’s really a better situation, to be honest with you,” Beckman said. “Some of the terminology that was used prior to wasn’t the same terminology that Coach Cubit used. Four years of football with Bill Cubit. That makes it simple.”
Ricker was a standout offensive lineman at Missouri, setting a school record with 47 consecutive starts. He was an All-Big 12 pick as a senior and a second-team choice his junior year. Ricker signed a free agent contract with the Chicago Bears and spent time in NFL Europe and in the Arena Football League.
Ricker’s Texas ties will help Illinois with recruiting, Beckman said.