'Unfortunate situation' for OL

CHAMPAIGN - Illinois coach Tim Beckman called the departure of offensive line coach Jim Bridge "an unfortunate situation," following practice Tuesday.

CHAMPAIGN - Illinois coach Tim Beckman called the departure of offensive line coach Jim Bridge "an unfortunate situation," following practice Tuesday.

Bridge, who was hired in January, left for Purdue, with the news reaching the public just hours before the Fighting Illini took to the practice field for it's first of 15 practices this spring.

Neither Bridge nor Purdue has provided comment, but the official announcement is expected Wednesday.

Despite being down a staff member, Beckman said he didn't consider canceling or altering practice.

"This football team is the first and foremost important thing and our players worked extremely hard this winter to become a better football team, so I was not going to deprive them of not getting out here on the football field today," Beckman said. "They improved, they got better and they did exactly what our coaching staff asked them."

Offensive coordinator Bill Cubit and graduate assistant Drew Nystrom, both offseason additions, spent time overseeing the offensive line Tuesday.

Most recently a coach at the University of Dubuque, a Division-III school in Iowa, Nystrom played at Bowling Green from 2003-07, two seasons of which while Beckman was on staff.

"Drew's been around this program and played for us, so I know he's a great, great worker. I know he did a great job," Beckman said.

Obviously a critical time for the football program, finding a replacement in quick fashion is imperative. Without going into detail, Beckman said those candidates interviewed before Bridge was hired are back in play and that the hire could be made within 24 hours.

"I think we could get it done tomorrow if we wanted to," he said.

Illinois has two more practices, on Thursday and Saturday, scheduled this week.


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