- Associated Press - Friday, August 14, 2015

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - The University of Illinois’ top defensive player will miss the start of the season because of a knee injury.

Sports Information Director Kent Brown also said Friday that Jihad Ward will have surgery on the knee he injured in practice this week. Brown didn’t specify which knee was injured.

The senior defensive end is expected to miss the first two or three games of the season while he recuperates.

Brown says junior Dawuane Smoot will fill in for Ward.

Illinois opens its season against Kent State on Sept. 4.

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