Last spring, Illinois lost its best player when wide receiver Mike Dudek tore his ACL during practice.
Well, another knee injury has befallen the redshirt-sophomore-to-be.
Head coach Lovie Smith told reporters Tuesday that Dudek suffered a knee injury, but he declined to say how severe it is or how long it will keep Dudek off the field. Dudek didn't practice Tuesday.
"Just as a general rule, guys, I don't talk a lot about injuries," Smith told reporters. His quotes were published by Illini Inquirer. "I'll tell you the injuries they had. He had a knee injury, and we held him out of practice today.
"I learned a long time ago that 'doctor' isn't in front of my name. I try not to be Dr. Smith a lot. If guys can't go, we hold them out. Spring of course you take every precaution."
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Dudek had a tremendous freshman season, one of the best campaigns by a wide receiver in Illinois program history. He caught 76 passes during the 2014 season for 1,038 receiving yards and six touchdowns.
His return as a sophomore last season was supposed to lift an offense that struggled to find consistency while switching between quarterbacks Wes Lunt and Reilly O'Toole in 2014. But without Dudek — and with injuries affecting many other members of the offense — last season saw the Illini rank in the bottom three in the conference in scoring offense.
Again this offseason, Dudek's return is expected to provide a huge boost to the offense in Smith's first season as head coach. Though it remains unknown how long this injury will keep Dudek off the practice field.
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 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.