Illinois wide reciever Mike Dudek will miss a second consecutive season after re-tearing the ACL in his right knee during a non-contact drill in practice a week ago, according to an announcement from head coach Lovie Smith.
“Mikey Dudek will have season-ending surgery next week,” Smith said to reporters after practice yesterday. “It’s really unfortunate. He worked himself hard to get back out here this spring and was excited about the season. Nowadays you can have successful surgery and come back as strong as ever and that’s what we expect from him. He’s a great competitor, a great guy. He’s well liked by his teammates. Everybody is feeling for him, but they all know what type of guy he is. He’ll go through this process again and will be on the road to recovery before you know it.”
A former three-star talent from the Chicago area, Dudek broke out as a true freshman in 2014 and caught 76 passes for 1,038 yards and six touchdowns. This is a rough blow for the Illini, who brought in a former Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach in Smith and also Louisville offensive coordinator Garrick McGee in hopes of reviving a program that hasn’t had a winning season since 2007.
Yes, last year’s leading receivers in Malik Turner and Desmond Cain are coming back in 2016, but it was hoped that Dudek would be the leader of the trio. That said, hiring a new coaching staff can only do so much if one of the offense’s most electrifying players is out with a season-ending injury.
Hopefully, in spite of the loss of Mike Dudek, Illinois is still able to take a step forward in 2016.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports