According to a report originally published by The News-Gazette, Gary Pinkel and the Missouri Tigers coaching staff have found a replacement for recently-retired offensive line coach Bruce Walker, as former Tiger center A.J. Ricker will leave his position at the University of Illinois to join the Mizzou staff.
Ricker had a standout career at Mizzou from 1999 to 2003, starting 47 consecutive games while receiving All-Big 12 honors from numerous organizations. He went to training camp with the Chicago Bears before spending time in the Arena League. After the conclusion of his playing career, Ricker joined the coaching staff at Western Michigan in 2006, starting off as a graduate assistant before becoming an offensive line coach in 2008. He departed to become the offensive line coach at St. Joseph’s College in 2009 and then served as the head coach there in 2010.
After deciding that being a head coach wasn’t for him, Ricker returned to Western Michigan as the offensive line coach and run game coordinator for two years. He then followed Bill Cubit, the head coach he worked under at WMU, to Illinois when he became the Illini offensive coordinator prior to last season. While the 34-year-old Ricker had a solid situation at Illinois, he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to return to his alma mater. Having been born in Missouri before moving to Texas, it seems to be a perfect opportunity for him, especially considering how stable the Mizzou staff has been since Pinkel arrived in 2001.
Ricker takes over for Walker, who retired under rather odd circumstances earlier this month. The 53-year-old decided to move to Washington to spend more time with his family, who he’s spent a lot of time away from since joining forces with Pinkel at Toledo back in 1996. Though offensive coordinator Josh Henson is also an offensive line coach, the presence of Walker and now Ricker allows Henson to be able to branch out and focus on the whole offense during practices and games.