CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Standout receiver Mike Dudek probably will not play this season, Illinois interim coach Bill Cubit said Monday. And he isn’t sure when starting running back Josh Ferguson will return.
Dudek is at best two weeks away from being healthy after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in April, Cubit said. At that point, the Illini (4-2, 1-1 Big Ten) would only have four regular-season games left.
“I don’t think it’s going to happen, I’ll be perfectly honest with you,” Cubit said, though he added that no decision has been made about red-shirting the sophomore.
As a freshman last year, Dudek led Illinois with 76 catches for 1,038 yards. When he injured his knee, then-coach Tim Beckman said there was a chance Dudek might return in October.
Receiver Justin Hardee, who was expected to be a regular along with Dudek, remains doubtful for Saturday’s game against Wisconsin (5-2, 2-1), Cubit said. Hardee has been out all season with a broken foot.
In the absence of Dudek and Hardee, senior Geronimo Allison has been the go-to receiver for quarterback Wes Lunt, with 40 catches for 601 yards. No one else on the team has more than 22 catches or 194 yards. Lunt said if the Illini are going to continue to be able to move the ball in the air, other, mostly younger receivers will need to play bigger roles in the offense.
“Guys are going to start adjusting and putting two guys on (Allison) from now on,” Lunt said.
Ferguson is questionable for Saturday with the right-shoulder sprain suffered Oct. 3 against Nebraska.
“He’s got to feel comfortable,” Cubit said, explaining he didn’t want to play Ferguson if there’s a serious chance he could re-aggravate the injury. “(Running backs) get hit on almost every single play.”
Freshman Ke’Shawn Vaughn would again start in Ferguson’s absence. After starting against Iowa before last week’s bye, Vaughn is now Illinois’ leading rusher with 95 carries for 407 yards and three touchdowns.
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