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Illinois’ Matthew Bailey out for season

A devastating blow for the Illini.

NCAA Football: ReliaQuest Bowl-Illinois at Mississippi State Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The Illini will be without the leader of their secondary for the rest of the season.

In Monday’s press conference, head coach Bret Bielema revealed that after making his brief season debut in the 30-13 loss to No. 7 Penn State, sophomore safety Matthew Bailey will not return this 2023 football season.

Bailey was held out the first two games of the season with an ankle injury. After the first defensive play from scrimmage on Saturday, he came up clutching his shoulder but returned to the game a few plays later. However, another blow to his shoulder in the second quarter kept him out for good.

Despite the news, Bailey still had a smile on his face on Sunday.

“Nothing really wavers him,” said defensive coordinator Aaron Henry. “Nothing really messes with his confidence.”

According to Bielema, Bailey’s rehab process will last an estimated six months. He also stated that while the sophomore leader may be kept off the field on Saturdays, it won’t stop him from coming out to practice, eager to learn.

“He flipped the switch, just like that,” Bielema said, “about what he could do to become better in the next 6 months.”

Henry and his defensive staff pride themselves on the dual training they put their players through during the offseason. When injuries like Bailey’s “happen every year”, Henry knew that they would be prepared for a situation just like this.

Without this major leader in a secondary that already lacks experience, who will step up for the Illini?