A.J. Ricker has officially gone home.
A handful of days after it was first reported, Missouri announced Monday evening that Ricker has officially been hired as Gary Pinkel‘s offensive line coach. Ricker stepped down from the same job at Illinois to return to his alma mater.
“We’re really excited to have A.J. join our staff,” said Pinkel in a statement. “When we had this opportunity, we wanted to bring a young coach in who had experience, and A.J. fits that perfectly. We feel like he’s one of the best young offensive line coaches in the country, and we talk all the time about being Mizzou Made. He understands our system, he loves Mizzou and he can’t wait to get started.”
Ricker’s presence will certainly be a familiar one for Mizzou fans.
From 2000-03, Ricker started 47 games at center for Mizzou. He went on to serve as the line coach at Western Michigan in 2008 and then again from 2011-12. He spent his one and only season with the Illini in 2013.
Suffice to say, the lure of coming back to the Tigers proved to be too much for Ricker — but not the biggest lure.
“Obviously, coming home is a big deal to me,” said Ricker. “But I want people to know that’s the not the important thing, I’m coming here to do a job to teach the game and do it at a really high level. My biggest focus is to get there and take what I’ve learned at all my different stops, roll my sleeves up and get to work to help us win a lot of ballgames. Certainly, it’s an honor to coach at your alma mater, and I’m grateful to Coach Pinkel and his staff for having the faith in me to bring me on. They’ve done a heck of a job of building this program and I’m really pleased and excited to be part of it.”
Illinois, incidentally, has yet to announce a replacement for Ricker.
(Photo credit: Illinois athletics)
At the moment, BYU is looking at one hellacious start to the 2019 season.
Thursday afternoon, BYU announced tat it has added a future home-and-home series with Tennessee. The Volunteers will serve as the host for a Sept. 7, 2019, matchup at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, with the second game set for Sept. 1 or 2, 2023, at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo.
The 2019 game will mark the first-ever meeting between the two football programs.
“There’s something about those orange and white checkerboard end zones that shouts ‘Tradition!’,” BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe said in a statement. “When the opportunity to play a series with Tennessee presented itself, we didn’t blink. They’re a storied football program with a winning tradition, national championships, a classic stadium, incredible fans and hall of fame coaches.
“It will be a great experience to visit SEC country and play in Neyland Stadium, and later host Tennessee in Provo.”
BYU will kick off the 2019 season against Utah, followed by games against Tennessee, USC and Washington the next three weeks. They also have a pair of mid-October games against Washington State and Boise State.
UT’s other non-conference games that season include Georgia State, Chattanooga and UAB.
Lovie Smith is not a big fan of fighting amongst his Illinois players, a lesson he shared with his aptly nicknamed Fighting Illini squad Wednesday evening.
According to the Decatur Herald & Review, Illinois’ spring practice session yesterday came to an abrupt and premature end after a fight between players broke out. The names of those involved in the fisticuffs are not known as the media hadn’t been permitted to view practice.
From the Herald & Review‘s report:
…a source said Smith wanted to send a strong message about how he hates fighting and considers it an inexcusable transgression that robs the rest of the team of a chance to concentrate on getting better.
The field was cleared at about 5:35 p.m., nearly an hour before practice was scheduled to end. The players were sent to the locker room and the field was quickly cleared of equipment. Reporters were told there would be no interviews and were told to vacate the Memorial Stadium facility.
The Illini, which finished 3-9 in their first season under Smith last year, kicked off spring practice feb. 14 and will conclude it March 10 with the annual spring game.
With spring practice getting set to kick of en masse all across the country, there’s more of the expected personnel attrition settling in and coming to light.
On his Twitter account Wednesday, Andy Dodd announced that it is in his “best interest” to transfer from LSU and continue playing college football elsewhere. “This decision was not an easy one, but it is what’s best for me moving forward,” the offensive lineman wrote.
Dodd was a three-star member of the Tigers’ 2013 recruiting class, rated as the No. 17 guard in the country.
After taking a redshirt as a true freshman, the lineman played in eight games the next two seasons. He played in six games, with one start, in 2016.
Another graduate transfer has made a move, albeit with a slightly different bent than most others.
Auburn confirmed Wednesday that Casey Dunn has been added to Gus Malzahn‘s football roster. The center comes to The Plains as a graduate transfer, which makes him eligible for the 2017 season.
He also comes to Auburn from Jacksonville State, an FCS school that would’ve made him immediately eligible aside from the grad transfer exception. Oh, and his new position coach is excited to have him in the personnel fold as well.
The past two seasons, Dunn was an FCS All-American. While Dunn comes to the Tigers as a center who started 27 games at that position for the Gamecocks, he could play anywhere along the interior of the Tigers’ offensive line.
Malzahn is also very familiar with Dunn’s talent as the lineman started for the JSU squad that took him to overtime in 2015.