Bad news just broke again from Rantoul, as senior defensive end Jihad Ward will have surgery and miss the first two weeks of the season.
Ward sat out the last two days of practice with his injury, which will require a minor surgical procedure. The injury is a major blow for the Illini, who were counting on Ward to anchor the defensive line. Details of the injury have not yet been released.
Beckman: #illini DE Jihad Ward out first two games, will have minor surgery. Was in red jersey the last two practices.— Jeremy Werner (@JWernerScout) August 14, 2015
Gigantic injury news. Ward out 3-4 weeks. https://t.co/Gt0cl19ELU— Robert (@ALionEye) August 14, 2015
Come on man. https://t.co/CMqshoGaxh— Matt Silich (@msilich2) August 14, 2015
With wide receiver Mike Dudek also out until at least October, Illinois will be without their best player on each side of the ball. Ward was a beast towards the end of last season. With the addition of Mike Phair as the new defensive line coach, big things were expected to start his senior campaign.
The good news is that this is a minor surgery and Ward will only be missing the first two games; both of those contests (Kent State and Western Illinois) are cupcakes and should be wins. Hopefully Ward will be at or near 100% for Illinois' Week 3 matchup against North Carolina.
Hopefully this injury won't halt the tremendous progress Ward has made this offseason because he has the potential to be an NFL draft pick next summer.