Big Ten

Illini receiver Mike Dudek tears ACL again, out for second straight season

mike-dudek-4.12.png
USA Today Sports Images

Illini receiver Mike Dudek tears ACL again, out for second straight season

Illinois wide receiver Mike Dudek will miss the entirety of the upcoming season after tearing his ACL during spring practice.

For the second straight season, Dudek's would-be sophomore season has been wiped out in the spring. He tore the same ACL he did last season — in his right knee — again on a non-contact drill during spring practice.

New Illini head coach Lovie Smith broke the news to reporters after practice Friday.

"The game can sometimes be cruel," Smith said. "Mike Dudek, significant knee injury. He'll have season-ending surgery next week. It's unfortunate. The guy worked himself pretty hard to get back in position. But injuries happen.

"ACL injury, which is unfortunate. But nowadays, you have successful surgery, you can come back as strong as ever. And that's what we're expecting from him. ... He'll be on the road to recovery before you know it."

[SHOP BIG TEN: Get your Fighting Illini gear right here]

It's the absolute worst luck possible for a receiver who emerged as one of the team's best players during his freshman season in 2014. Dudek had one of the best campaigns by an Illini wideout ever, catching 76 passes for 1,038 receiving yards and six touchdowns.

Last season, Dudek was expected to be a major contributor on offense after Wes Lunt and Reilly O'Toole split time at the quarterback position during the 2014 season. But then came Dudek's first ACL tear, the first of many injuries to offensive playmakers last year.

Then-head coach Tim Beckman was initially optimistic about Dudek's timeline, saying in the program's injury announcement last spring that Dudek could return by October. But that didn't happen, and Dudek didn't play at all last season, earning a medical redshirt.

Now Dudek has to battle all the way back once more.

"It's tough. He worked himself pretty hard to get back out here," Smith said. "He was pretty excited about this season. He's had to come back before, so he knows the routine, and he'll be back.

"He takes what he does seriously. You can tell he's a great competitor, great guy, liked by his teammates. Of course everybody's feeling for him. But they all know him, too. They know the type of guy (he is). It's not like he's feeling sorry for himself. This process, you have to go through it, and he'll go through it."

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

jeremy_larkin.jpg
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

anderson.jpg
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.