1. Larry Smith's 1999 recruiting class, the one that followed the Corby-and-Devin season of 1998, was supposed to be the one that carried Mizzou into the post-Corby future. It did not. Well, it DID, but that future wasn't very attractive, and Smith was dumped two seasons later. Mizzou's Next Great Offensive Line featured names like Rusty Groth and Dan Kania. Receivers Brandon Severino and Brandon Barnes (who, we learned a little too late, made a pretty good linebacker) were to be big targets and play-action weapons at wideout. Either Justin Gage or Darius Outlaw was to be the next great Mizzou option quarterback. Fullback Dan Davis was to be a monster. JUCO linebackers Eric Earthly and David Monroe were to plump up the defense. Terrence Curry was to become the lockdown corner Mizzou fans dreamed of.
2. Very little of that actually happened. Considering Mizzou's success heading into Signing Day, the 1999 class has long been viewed as one of Mizzou's most disappointing. But while the core of the class couldn't save Larry, it created leadership for Gary Pinkel's first good team, the 2003 squad. Running back Zack Abron briefly became Mizzou's all-time leading rusher (until Brad Smith zoomed past him). Linebacker Sean Doyle was solid. Gage wasn't much of a quarterback, but he was one hell of a receiver. Outlaw wasn't, either, but he was also pretty decent at wideout. Curry fought to overcome infinite injuries and did manage to have one solid, healthy season. And Rob Droege and A.J. Ricker became the anchors of the line that did very, very good things for Abron and Smith in 2002-03.
A.J. RICKER, L, 6-5, 272, Spring, Texas (Klein) - First-team all-state selection in talent-rich Texas was a two-year starter and all-district selection who led his team to the Class 5A Division I playoffs made 58 "pancake" blocks in 11 games
rated as one of the top players in Texas by every major recruiting service
elected Homecoming King by 3,600-member student body at Klein High School
picked the Tigers after considering Arkansas, Texas A&M, South Carolina, Baylor, Mississippi State and Houston
four-year member of FFA and FCA team captain as a senior
enjoys hunting and fishing
parents - Tom and Angela Ricker, father is a graduate of Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Mo., and mother is graduate of Central Missouri State
high school coach - Ray Kenjura
born March 29, 1980
academic interest - business.
That's Ricker's Signing Day bio. He was committed to Arkansas before flipping to Mizzou.
4. That means Ricker has spurned both Arkansas and Illinois in favor of the Tigers. What more could you ask for?
5. Mizzou has produced quite a few strong coaches through the years, but few of them have come back to Mizzou. After a few years bouncing around the minor leagues of professional football (Rhein Fire, Tampa Bay Storm), Ricker joined former Mizzou offensive coordinator Bill Cubit's staff at Western Michigan. He worked as Cubit's OL coach in Kalamazoo in 2008 and 2011-12 (with a stint at St. Joseph's College in between), and when Cubit became Illinois' offensive coordinator last year, Ricker followed him to Champaign.
6. In 2008, WMU's offensive line ranked 90th in Adj. Line Yards and fourth in Adj. Sack Rate, then fell to 101st and 44th, respectively, when he left. In 2012, it ranked 64th and 30th, then plummeted to 116th and (a slight improvement) 21st in his 2013 absence.
7. In 2012, Illinois ranked 72nd in Adj. Line Yards and 108th in Adj. Sack Rate. In 2013, despite the loss of two three-year starters, Illinois ranked 74th and 74th with Ricker in charge. On average, lines improve when he shows up and regress when he leaves. That's pretty much all you can ask for.
Per Rivals, 4 of Illini's 12 commitments for 2015 are Ricker's recruits. All O-linemen. Walker's primary area was Texas; Ricker's from Texas— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) July 9, 2014
I'm hearing Mizzou O-linemen already fired up with Ricker hire.— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) July 9, 2014
9. Ricker checks a lot of boxes. He's a young, exciting coach who seems to have done a solid job so far. He's a potentially charismatic recruiter. He's well-versed in the spread, having cut his coaching teeth at the right hand of Bill Cubit. It's impossible to call a coaching hire a success before it's even officially announced, but this one is, at the very least, easy to like.
10. Welcome home, A.J.