Illinois linebacker Martez Wilson will miss the remainder of the season because of a neck injury, the school said today,
The junior from Chicago Simeon will have surgery to repair a herniated disc.
"We feel awful for Martez," Illinois coach Ron Zook said. "He worked so hard and had such a great offseason. I'm really proud of him for that. You never want to see injuries happen, but we feel that we were able to catch this in time to ensure a successful surgery and recovery for Martez. I feel confident that he will return from the injury stronger and with more determination next year. We talk about adversity and our team knows others will have to step up and fill his shoes. I think they are ready to do that."
Wilson issued a statement and will be made available to the media later this afternoon:
"Of course, I am upset and frustrated, but you can't control injuries," Wilson said. "The biggest thing for me is that I have a lot of support around me with my family, the coaches and my teammates and they will help me get through this. I was really looking forward to being a leader on this defense, but I can still do that from the sidelines. I will get healed and make sure I am 100 percent for next season."
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
Here is Illinois football beat writer Bob Asmussen's take:
It's a potentially huge blow to a defense that already has plenty of questions. While Wilson's performance was criticized at times by Illinois fans, there was no doubting his talents. He is a speedy, agile, strong player who looked like a good fit in the middle. Illinois just lost its best defensive player, skill-wise.
Russell Ellington will be asked to do more. Based on Saturday's game against Illinois State, he looks up for it. And this could mean more playing time for Aaron Gress, who played well against the Redbirds.
For Wilson, this will eliminate any thought of leaving for the NFL after this season, an idea he has mentioned in the past. He will need to show the NFL scouts that he has returned to form during the 2010 college season.