CHAMPAIGN - Illinois football on Tuesday underwent its seventh practice of the spring here. Meanwhile, in Pensacola, Fla., Illini sophomore wide receiver Mike Dudek underwent his second ACL surgery in a year.
Renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews successfully repaired a torn ACL in Dudek's right knee, an injury suffered on Saturday, April 2 -- just his second full spring practice since suffering the same injury in the same knee on April 8, 2015.
"It went excellent," Dudek's father, Rick, messaged to IlliniInquirer.com. "All fixed up. On to rehab!"
Rick Dudek said his son -- a Scout.com Freshman All-American in 2014 who will miss his second straight season -- was busy before surgery. The 20-year-old got a workout in, lifting weights (upperbody only, of course) before going under the knife.
"He can't work out until Sunday so wanted to get the last one In," Rick Dudek said. "He is a pretty determined young man."
Added Mike's mother, Lynn: "You can be sure Mikey will be back."
Back in Champaign, Dudek's teammates were thinking about him.
"I told him to keep his head up, and that I got his back no matter what," said senior receiver Justin Hardee, who due to a foot injury sat out last season with Dudek. "I love him. That's my little brother."
With seven of 15 practices completed, Illinois is almost halfway done with spring schedule. Smith knows a lot more about his team but still has a lot more learning to do.
"Yes, it has been everything I expect," Smith said. "We know a lot more. We started off and we didn't know who we had and were trying to get guys in the right position. We feel like we got all the guys in the right position now. We see daily improvement from them. Each day is a learning experience, which it should be. We need the rest of the practices. We're not game ready yet, but we're getting that way."
Public peak at Saturday's practice
Illinois fans will have their first opportunity -- and only opportunity of the spring -- to watch Smith's Illini on Saturday. Illinois will hold an open practice at 1 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium. Admission and parking are free. Doors open at noon (only the West Side of the stadium is open to fans), and concessions will be available. Grange Grove (the area immediately west of the stadium) will be open to tailgating starting at 9 a.m.
Smith said the team will not scrimmage on Saturday. So what should fans expect?
"Just where we are. The first shot at seeing their football team," Smith said. "We're halfway through spring ball. It's not like we're at the end where you'd usually have your spring game. They'll get a chance to see some of their favorite guys who they're going to cheer for this fall.
"We're not ready to put on a game or anything like that, but we'll have situations where people can see football being played."
Smith and the Illini players will sign autographs on the field after the practice.