Big Ten

Co-DC Tim Banks departs as Bill Cubit makes more changes to Illini staff


Co-DC Tim Banks departs as Bill Cubit makes more changes to Illini staff

The latest changes to Bill Cubit's coaching staff are the most sweeping yet.

Cubit announced a slew of shakeups to his staff Friday morning, chief among them that co-defensive coordinator Tim Banks was leaving the program to pursue other interests and that Ryan Cubit and Mike Phair were promoted to the roles of offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator, respectively.

Additionally, Cubit announced that former Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase is now the team's permanent running backs coach, former Illinois quarterback Jeff Hecklinski is the team's new special teams coordinator and tight ends coach and that former Illinois offensive line coach A.J. Ricker has returned to that position.

Banks spent four seasons as the Illinois defensive coordinator, including last season as a co-defensive coordinator alongside Phair. His defenses performed poorly in 2013 and 2014, leading to the program bringing in Phair. But last season, under both Banks and Phair, the Illinois defense played very well, ranking 32nd in the country in total defense.

Ryan Cubit, Bill's son, worked as an assistant on his father's staff at Western Michigan. Last season, he was promoted to the position of quarterbacks coach with the Illini and had an increased role in play-calling once Bill Cubit was named interim head coach but retained the title of offensive coordinator.

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"I feel extremely confident in both Mike and Ryan as coordinators," Bill Cubit said in Friday's announcement. "Ryan was basically the offensive coordinator this past season as we worked very closely on the offensive game plan during the week. I've leaned on him both times he has been on my coaching staff as we have very similar thoughts on our offense.

"Mike brought a high level of energy and expertise to this staff, and I was very impressed while watching him operate. He is extremely prepared to install a game plan and call his own defense, and it was very apparent that the players responded well to him last year."

Ricker spent two seasons as Cubit’s offensive line coach at Western Michigan before joining him at Illinois in the same capacity in 2013. Ricker then left to become the offensive line coach at Missouri, his alma mater, in 2014 and 2015.

Hecklinski spent two seasons as a quarterback at Illinois. He worked as the passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Colorado State Pueblo this past season after four seasons as the assistant head coach and running backs coach at Michigan under Brady Hoke.

Friday's announced staff changes come in the wake of losing three assistants over the past month. Earlier this week, Illinois announced that offensive line coach Tom Brattan wasn't retained. Prior to that, Cubit announced that special teams coordinator and tight ends coach Alex Golesh and inside linebackers coach Mike Ward would be leaving the program.

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately


Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

Tough news out of Evanston this morning: Northwestern announced that running back Jeremy Larkin will retire immediately after being diagnosed with cervical stenosis.

Cervical stenois is the narrowing of the spinal canal in one's neck, according to Mayo Clinic. Larkin's condition is thankfully not life-threatening, though it does prevent him from continuing to participate in the game of football. 

"Football has been a lifelong passion and it has been a process to reconcile the fact I won't be on that field again, given I've played this game since I was five years old," Larkin said.

"I'm extremely appreciative of the Northwestern sports medicine and athletic training staffs for uncovering this condition, and for my coaches and the medical staff for always putting my health first.

"I came to this University to engage at the absolute highest level on the field and in the classroom, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to continue one of those while supporting my teammates from the sideline." 

Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald called the news "heartbreaking."

"This is heartbreaking because I see every day how much Jeremy loves the game, loves his teammates, and loves to compete," Fitzgerald said in a statement. "But this is the absolute best possible outcome for him.

"The discovery of this condition allowed Jeremy and his family to make an informed decision for his long-term health and well-being. For those of us who have known Jeremy Larkin since his high school days, his future is exceptionally bright. I can't wait to see the impact he makes in our world."

Larkin is a sophomore from Cincinnati. He finishes his Northwestern career with 156 carries for 849 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns.

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal


Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

Former University of Illinois tennis star Kevin Anderson completed a marathon upset against an all-time great on the highest stage of professional tennis.

Anderson came back from two sets down to beat Roger Federer in Wimbledon’s quarterfinals 2-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 13-11 on Wednesday morning. He will play in the semifinals of the tournament for the first time in his career.

As a native of South Africa, Anderson played three seasons with the Fighting Illini and won the NCAA doubles championship during the 2005-06 season as a sophomore. The 32-year-old was a three-time All-American in singles at Illinois.

Now, as the eighth ranked singles player on the ATP World Tour, Anderson is a force to be reckoned with at the professional level. He made it all the way to the US Open final in 2017.

The former Illini star will look to keep his recent success going when he represents Illinois in the semifinals of Wimbledon this Friday.