The Illini lost a reserve quarterback Wednesday, when the team announced that Jimmy Fitzgerald is leaving the program.
"After much thought and discussion with my family, I have decided to leave the Illinois football program and consider other opportunities for my collegiate career," Fitzgerald said in the announcement. "I want to thank all the coaches I’ve played for and worked with at Illinois, including (Tim) Beckman, (Bill) Cubit and (Lovie) Smith. My Illini teammates are an incredible bunch of guys, and many will remain friends for life. Having grown up in this community, I’ve been a life-long fan of the Fighting Illini, and it was a fantastic thrill and opportunity to wear the orange and blue. I know there are great things in the future for the Fighting Illini, but I feel this is the time for a fresh start in my collegiate career."
"I met with Jimmy (on) Tuesday evening, and we discussed his future as he has decided to leave our program," Smith said in the announcement. "We wish Jimmy nothing but the best as he moves forward with his career. He is a terrific young man who has the respect of his teammates and all our coaches. Sometimes it just seems to a young man that the best move is to try and get a fresh start, and this is what is happening in this situation."
Fitzgerald was a three-star recruit out of Champaign Centennial and obviously was not a part of the plan at quarterback this year during Wes Lunt's senior season.
But entering what would have been just his redshirt freshman season, he was expected to be one of several competitors for the starting job next year after Lunt graduates.
It's hardly uncommon for players to leave a program during a coaching change, and this is the second quarterback to do so since Smith took over, with Eli Peters transferring to play at Toledo earlier this offseason.
Fitzgerald will likely take a similar path in searching for a program that better fits his style of play.
With Fitzgerald gone, Lunt's backup Chayce Crouch (a sophomore) and redshirt freshman Jeff George Jr. are expected to compete for the starting quarterback job next season.
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.