Big Ten

Lovie Smith has coordinators in place as Illini announce Hardy Nickerson


Lovie Smith has coordinators in place as Illini announce Hardy Nickerson

Lovie Smith officially has both his coordinators in place.

Illinois officially announced the addition of Hardy Nickerson to Smith's staff as defensive coordinator just a few days after officially announcing the addition of Garrick McGee as Smith's offensive coordinator.

"Hardy Nickerson is one of the few superstar players who have been able to transition into coaching and translate the style and level of play needed to succeed to the players he is coaching," Smith said in the announcement. "He has been on my staff with two different NFL teams, and I'm really looking forward to having Hardy join us here at the University of Illinois as our defensive coordinator. His ability to connect with young men and their families will be a huge benefit when it comes to recruiting, and his knowledge of our defense will certainly help us get to where we want to be faster."

Nickerson was a five-time Pro Bowl linebacker during his 16-season NFL career, starring with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1993 to 1999. He began his coaching career under Smith with the Bears in 2007 before joining Smith's staff with the Bucs over the past two seasons as linebackers coach. He was hired as the San Francisco 49ers' linebackers coach just a couple months ago but will work at Illinois instead.

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Friday, shortly before the Illinois men's basketball team played Pudue in the Big Ten Tournament, Illinois made the reported hiring of McGee official, as well.

"My relationship with Garrick McGee goes back to when I recruited him to Arizona State, and have maintained that friendship as he has risen through the college ranks and become one of the top offensive coaches in the nation," Smith said in that announcement. "We are fortunate to have him run the Illini offense, and our fans should be excited, because we'll showcase an exciting brand of football."

Smith recruited McGee to play quarterback at Arizona State before the Tulsa native finished his collegiate career at Oklahoma. McGee has worked as an offensive coordinator at three other Power 5 schools, most notably Northwestern, where he spent four years as an assistant under both Randy Walker and Pat Fitzgerald. He also worked as the offensive coordinator at both Arkansas and Louisville, leaving the latter last week to join Smith's staff in Champaign.

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.