For a team looking to build off a bowl appearance that likely saved the job of its head coach, this serves as a significant — and potentially devastating — blow.
In a press release Wednesday, Illinois announced that star wide receiver Mike Dudek sustained a torn ACL in a non-contact drill during a Wednesday morning practice session. Perhaps the only bright spot, if you want to call it that, in the dire development is that Dudek could possibly, potentially, return somewhere around midseason.
Dudek will undergo surgery to repair the damage at some point in the not-too-distant future.
“This is very disappointing for Mikey, his family and our football program,” head coach Tim Beckman said in a statement. “He’ll have the knee surgically repaired as soon as possible and the doctors feel like he could return to the field in October. Knowing how hard Mikey works, our biggest challenge will be to keep him on pace and not let him push it too hard and too fast.”
If Dudek “only” misses half of the 2015 season, it’ll still put the Illini’s passing attack up against the wall.
As a true freshman in 2014, Dudek led the team with 76 catches for 1,038 yards and six touchdowns. The former two totals were school freshman records, while the latter tied the school mark for first-year players. The receptions are fifth in school history regardless of class, while the receiving yards are seventh.
He was a second-team All-Big Ten selection, while his name littered numerous freshman All-American squads.