The timing of former Missouri offensive line coach Bruce Walker’s retirement July 1 wasn’t ideal from the standpoint of finding a suitable replacement.
Of course, the Tigers believe they struck (black and) gold by pilfering 2004 MU graduate A.J. Ricker from the staff at Illinois.
“In a very difficult time to hire somebody, I feel very good about how we came up with A.J.,” Pinkel said.
He continued, “We feel we got a really good young coach,” Pinkel said. “He’ll come in with real high energy. He understands our program, our system. He’s Mizzou Made himself a little bit, so he’s coming back.”
Speaking to reporters Wednesday at SEC Media Days, junior center Evan Boehm said he’s thrilled with the hire of Ricker, who was an All-Big 12 center as a senior at Missouri.
“I can’t wait to pick his mind and see some things I can improve on, some things I can change and get his thoughts,” Boehm said.
The fact that Ricker played for Pinkel at the start of his Tigers tenure also should ease the transition for the players.
“That’s huge that he’s been under coach Pinkel and that he’s been in the system,” Boehm said. “Yeah, times have changed, things have changed, but he still knows about the Missouri name.”
Walker’s departure caught many in the program off guard, but coaches and players struck an appreciative tone.
“It was definitely a surprise, but I respect why,” Boehm said. “Family is the most important thing over everything. I’m just excited for him. I wish him the best, and I’m going to miss him. I want to give him a big thanks, because we wouldn’t be the offensive line that we are and I wouldn’t be the player that I am without his coaching.”
Walker spent 17 seasons on Pinkel’s staff. He was the tight ends coach/assistant offensive line coach from 1996-2000 for Pinkel at Toledo.
Walker followed Pinkel to Missouri in the same role before being promoted to co-offensive line coach in 2009.
“I wish him well and am very appreciative of all he did for us,” Pinkel said.