CHAMPAIGN - The injury bug continues to bit the Illinois football team before the team actually plays a game.
Illini head coach Tim Beckman said Tuesday afternoon that defensive tackle Teko Powell has suffered a foot injury that could cause the junior to miss his second straight season. Powell had suffered two fractures of the fifth metatarsal in about the past calendar year. His current injury is to the same bone.
Powell received a medical harship waiver last season. He and his family will discuss their options: resting the foot for six weeks and trying to play this season or opting for surgery, which would definitely knock him out for the season.
The injury thins what had looked like a finally deep Illini defensive tackle rotation. Junior Rob Bain and Jarrod "Chunky" Clements will start, but will have green players backing them up: redshirt freshman Tito Odenigbo and true freshman Jamal Milan. Milan, a three-star recruit out of Chicago, was one of the surprises of camp, but the Illini had hoped to redshirt him. The Illini probably don't have that luxury now.
Powell, a Florida native, played as a true freshman and started as a sophomore. He had been confident in his foot health during training camp.
“It’s just been a long recovery process,” Powell said two weeks ago. “This time, we just took everything along slowly and just stayed on top of everything close with the trainers. Now, it’s 100 percent. It’s fully ready to go.”
Read Jeremy Werner's training camp story on Powell here.
The Illini have suffered several key injuries this offseason. Sophomore wide receiver Mikey Dudek, a Scout.com Freshman All-American, will miss several games -- if not the entire season -- after suffering a torn ACL during spring practice.
Linebacker Mike Svetina re-injured his foot, which kept him out all of last season.
True freshmen Dre Brown, a running back, and safety Patrick Nelson, a safety, both also suffered torn ACLs during the spring and will miss the season. Freshman running back Reggie Corbin will miss the season after suffering a torn labrum in his shoulder last week.
Starting defensive end Jihad Ward will miss the first two games of the season due to a knee injury. Though Beckman said confidently on Tuesday that Ward will return for the Illini's toughest nonconference test, a Week 3 trip to North Carolina. Ward practiced with a red jersey on Tuesday, a week after a minor surgery.