Illinois receivers Mike Dudek and Justin Hardee haven't played a down of football this season. And they won't.
Though it was expected that the two receivers wouldn't be returning late in the campaign after missing the first seven games, the Illini made it official with Thursday's injury report, which listed the two wideouts as done for the season.
Dudek, a sophomore, tore his ACL during spring practice, and despite an early optimistic prognosis from former head coach Tim Beckman that suggested Dudek could be back midway through the season, it's been pretty apparent that he wouldn't return. Last week, interim head coach Bill Cubit said that it was likely that Dudek would be out for the year.
Dudek was the team's leading receiver as a freshman last season and turned in the eighth 1,000-yard receiving season in program history.
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His loss has been noticeable on the field this season, and Cubit has mentioned Dudek's name on multiple occasions when talking about the Illinois' offense's inability to move the ball or find success in the red zone.
Hardee, a senior, has also been battling an injury since the preseason.
The losses of Dudek and Hardee have been two of the many injuries the Illini have faced on the offensive side of the ball. The receiving corps has been diminished further with sporadic injuries to Geronimo Allison and Marchie Murdock, and the Illini have faced many injuries to their tight ends. Starting running back Josh Ferguson will miss his third straight game Saturday with a shoulder sprain.
Both Dudek and Hardee have the options of applying for medical redshirts. If awarded the medical hardship waivers, Dudek would become a redshirt sophomore and have three more years of eligibility remaining, while Hardee would be able to return for a fifth season of eligibility.
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.