USAToday // Tim Heitman

Fotu, Day suspended; Ward could return soon

Illini defenders Joe Fotu and Caleb Day suspended; DE Jihad Ward recovering quickly

CHAMPAIGN - Illinois senior defensive tackle Joe Fotu and junior safety Caleb Day have been suspended indefinitely for violations of team policy, Illini football coach Tim Beckman said Wednesday.

The players will continue to practice with the team, but Beckman did not say if they will miss any game time. The Illini open the season on Sept. 4 vs. Kent State at home.

"We're just going to monitor the situation and make a decision down the road," Beckman said.

Fotu missed most of training camp with an injury and likely will be a third-string defensive lineman. Day, a former four-star recruit, was slotted as the third safety behind starters Clayton Fejedelem and Taylor Barton.

Ward recovering quickly

A day after learning Teko Powell may miss the season with a foot injury, Beckman did receive some good news.

The Illini coach said senior starting defensive end Jihad Ward, who was expected to miss the first two games of the season after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery last week, could return sooner than planned. He went through a workout in a red jersey on Wednesday but did not go through team contact drills.

"I've seen great things from Jihad out there working, and I've heard from our doctor, and our trainers that he's making tremendous effort in getting himself back," Beckman said. "That's a good thing."

A source told Illini Inquirer that Ward, one of the team's top defenders, could even return for next Friday's season opener. Beckman said Ward would have to practice with no limitations next Tuesday or Wednesday to be cleared for the game.

Ready or not for Odenigbo, Milan

Powell has not yet decided whether to undergo season-ending surgery to repair a fracture in the fifth metatarsal in his right foot -- the third time he's fractured that bone since 2013 -- or to let it rest for six weeks and try to return to the field.

"It's a tough, tough situation; there's no question," Beckman said.

Regardless, Illinois can't count on Powell. The Illinois are hoping it can count on the backups -- redshirt freshman Tito Odenigbo and true freshman Jamal Milan -- but both have no college football experience.

"I think Tito has definitely made strides," Beckman said. "He's a backup right now. I think Jamal has shown he has the capabilities to play. He's big. He's stronger than most freshmen ... and he's got great football knowledge."

The Illini staff had hoped to redshirt Milan, a three-star prospect and future starter, but Beckman said, "Yeah, but I don't think that's going to be a possibility now with what's happened with Teko."

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