Big Ten

Lovie Smith's Illini coaching staff finally complete

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Lovie Smith's Illini coaching staff finally complete

Lovie Smith's coaching staff is finally complete.

Two weeks after Smith was introduced in Champaign as the Illini's new head football coach, Illinois announced the final addition to his coaching staff in new running backs coach Thad Ward. Ward spent the past three seasons as the wide receivers coach at Northern Illinois.

Ward's hiring completes Smith's staff. Previously announced hires include offensive coordinator Garrick McGee, who joins the Illini after two seasons in the same role at Louisville.

Defensive coordinator Hardy Nickerson spent the past two seasons as the linebackers coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Bob Ligashesky is the new special teams coordinator and tight ends coach. He spent the past four seasons as an NFL special teams coordinator with both the Buccaneers and Houston Texans.

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Luke Butkus returns to Champaign as the offensive line coach, a role he had before in 2012 under Tim Beckman. The former Illini captain also worked under Smith as an assistant with the Bears.

Andrew Hayes-Stoker is the Illini's new wide receivers coach. He had the same job under Smith in the past two seasons with the Buccaneers and worked as an assistant with the Bears.

Tim McGarigle was hired as an Illinois assistant by Bill Cubit prior to the latter's dismissal. The Northwestern alum stays on as Smith's linebackers coach after four seasons at Western Michigan.

Mike Phair, hired as co-defensive coordinator under Tim Beckman and promoted to defensive coordinator under Cubit, stays on as Smith's defensive line coach. Phair worked under Smith with the Bears from 2011 to 2013.

Paul Williams was hired as the new Illinois defensive backs coach by Cubit and retained by Smith. Williams spent the past five seasons at Miami.

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

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USA TODAY

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

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USA TODAY

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.