For Illinois offensive linemen Michael Heitz, Simon Cvijanovic, Alex Hill and Ted Karras, Tom Brattan represents the fifth offensive line coach the likely starters have had during their Illini careers so far. A look back at who the most seasoned Illini offensive linemen have worked with, courtesy beat writer Matt Daniels:
Hired at Illinois: Jan. 16, 2009
What was said then: “When I interviewed, I really enjoyed and felt comfortable with the people that I will be working with. Another deciding factor was that Illinois has a chance to be a great program in the Big Ten.” — Gilbert
Last game at Illinois: 20-14 win against UCLA on Dec. 31, 2011, in Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl
What he did at Illinois: Illinois gave up 23 sacks in 2009 (ninth in Big Ten), 25 in 2010 (11th in Big Ten) and 36 sacks in 2011 (10th in Big Ten), but blocked for single-season rushing leader Mikel Leshoure (1,697 yards) during 2010 season. Coached future NFL linemen Xavier Fulton, Jon Asamoah, Jeff Allen, Hugh Thornton and Graham Pocic.
Where he’s at now: Gilbert left Illinois and landed at Alabama-Birmingham in January 2012 to handle dual roles of offensive coordinator and offensive line coach, but he was there less than a month before accepting an assistant offensive line coaching job with the Indianapolis Colts. He was promoted to the Colts’ offensive line coach prior to the 2013 season and is entering his third season with the franchise this fall.
Hired at Illinois: Jan. 3, 2012
What was said then: “If they tell me to sweep up the hallways of the office, I´d be happy to do that. That´s how excited I am to be back home and to be a part of this program again.” — Butkus
Last game at Illinois: 50-14 loss at Northwestern on Nov. 24, 2012
What he did at Illinois: Illini ranked dead last in the Big Ten, giving up 39 sacks. Injuries to stalwarts like Graham Pocic and Hugh Thornton disrupted the continuity of the line, which never seemed to mesh. Ted Karras and Michael Heitz each started 12 games, and Simon Cvijanovic made 11 starts, but they still were adapting to the college game.
Where he’s at now: Dick Butkus’ nephew, who played at Illinois, left Tim Beckman’s staff to join his old coach at Illinois, Ron Turner, in the role of run-game coordinator at Florida International. That stint didn’t last long, either, with Butkus departing in late January 2013 to take an assistant offensive line coaching job with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He’s about to start his second season in that role for Shahid Khan’s franchise.
Hired at Illinois: Jan. 23, 2013
What was said then: “I’m very excited to work with an outstanding coach and man in Tim Beckman. Illinois is a great fit for me, personally, and Coach Beckman has assembled an outstanding staff.” — Bridge
Last game at Illinois: Didn’t stick around long enough to coach in one at Illinois, leaving for Purdue right before spring practice began and six weeks after he started.
What he did at Illinois: Came in with a reputation for developing offensive linemen and having a solid recruiting touch. Left with scorn attached to his name and bewilderment about why he left so soon to take a job with the Boilermakers.
Where he’s at now: About to start his second season at Purdue. The Boilermakers gave up a Big Ten-worst 38 sacks last season and produced the second-worst rushing offense in the country, averaging 67.1 yards a game, only ahead of pass-happy Washington State.
Hired at Illinois: March 8, 2013
What was said then: “I have a lot of respect for the way Coach Beckman coaches, having been in the MAC and coaching against him for two years. Coach (Bill) Cubit coached me at Missouri and gave me a start as a coach by hiring me as a graduate assistant at Western Michigan. The man is a genius when it comes to offense.” — Ricker
Left Illinois: July 9, 2014
What he did at Illinois: Rebuilt the confidence of a unit battered and beaten down the year before. Illinois still ranked in the bottom fourth of the Big Ten — ninth to be precise — by giving up 30 sacks, but experience working with Cubit at Western Michigan paid off. In a good way. Also instrumental in helping secure four offensive line commits in the Class of 2015 so far, including Jacksonville’s Gabe Megginson.
Where he’s at now: Took the job of offensive line coach at Missouri, his alma mater. Ricker inherits a unit that allowed 27 sacks in 14 games last season for the SEC East champion Tigers and returns three linemen who started all 14 games last fall.
Hired at Illinois: July 17, 2014
What was said then: “Whatever he’s done has worked because his resume shows Rose Bowl and Orange Bowl appearances. He’s not a big screamer or yeller, but he’ll get his point across.” — Beckman
His background: Spent 13 seasons at Maryland as the Terrapins’ offensive line coach, working under Ralph Friedgen and Randy Edsall. Is familiar with the Big Ten after serving as Northwestern’s offensive line coach when Gary Barnett roamed the sidelines in Evanston, and he was on staff during 1994 season that ended with a trip to the Rose Bowl.
Expectations at Illinois: Elevate veteran offensive line Illini have this season into upper echelon of the Big Ten. Won’t be easy with strong offensive lines expected at Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan State and Nebraska, among others, but inexperienced linemen aren’t something Brattan will work with this fall.