A.J. Ricker Hire Officially Announced

Jonathan Daniel

He's officially our offensive line coach now.

Here's the full release from the school:

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - University of Illinois head coach Tim Beckman has announced the hiring of A.J. Ricker as offensive line coach. Ricker comes to Illinois from Middle Tennessee State. He spent the last two years at Western Michigan under current Illini offensive coordinator Bill Cubit, where he served as offensive line coach / run game coordinator.

"I'm very excited to be with Coach Beckman and back with Coach Cubit," Ricker said. "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 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. The University of Illinois is an outstanding institution and competes with the nation's best in the Big Ten Conference. I can't wait to take on the challenge while getting to know and working with the offensive linemen."

Under Ricker, the Bronco offensive line boasted All-MAC selection Dann O'Neill in 2011 and saw first-year guard Kasimili Uitalia start all 13 games. Returning center Kevin Galeher was a 2011 Rimington Trophy candidate under Ricker's tutelage

Prior to rejoining WMU's program, Ricker served one season as the head coach at St. Joseph's College in Rensselaer, Ind. Ricker served as the Pumas' offensive line coach in 2009 under Lou Esposito. In one season, the offensive line paved the way for 179.5 rushing yards per game and allowed only two sacks per contest. He was named the Great Lakes Football Conference Assistant Coach of the Year in 2009 for his SJC offensive scheme efforts.

"A.J. Ricker will be a great fit on the Fighting Illini staff," Beckman said. "I was very aware of his abilities during his time at Western Michigan, and Coach Cubit had nothing but great things to say about him when our opening occurred. Their relationship goes back several years and Bill is very confident in A.J.'s coaching ability and as a great person on the staff. He will hit the road running and I have no doubt that our offensive linemen and team will embrace him immediately."

Ricker completed a stellar collegiate career at Missouri as a center, where he earned a degree in agriculture in 2004. He held the school record for consecutive starts with 47 from 2000-2003. The Klein, Texas, native was named First-Team All-Big 12 by the coaches and the Dallas Morning News in 2003, while receiving Second-Team All-Big 12 honors from the Associated Press. He was named Second-Team All-Big 12 by the coaches and received honorable mention all-conference from the AP in 2002. Ricker was also named First-Team Academic All-Big 12 during his junior campaign. Being named Third-Team All-Big 12 by the coaches, receiving honorable mention for All-Big 12 from the AP and garnering Second-Team Academic All-Big 12 honors in 2001, highlighted his sophomore season in 2001.

Ricker signed a free-agent contract with the Chicago Bears in 2004 and was allocated to the Rhein Fire of NFL Europe in 2005 where he was named the offensive team captain prior to the season opener. He spent the 2006 season and part of the 2007 campaign as a member of the Tampa Bay Storm of the Arena Football League. Ricker saw action in 16 games, starting 10 in 2006. He made seven tackles, playing both offense and defense, and recovered four fumbles.

Bridge is married to the former Lauren Mattaliano.

Follow The Champaign Room on Twitter at @Champaign_Room. You can follow Tom Fornelli on Twitter at @TomFornelli.

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