Illinois and head coach Lovie Smith were given some tough news on Monday.

It came out that not one but two starters have suffered season-ending injuries. Those starters are sophomore linebacker Tarique Barnes and senior offensive lineman Alex Palczewski.

Palczewski has been a mainstay on the offensive line for Illinois. His most recent start against Rutgers on Nov. 14 was his 40th consecutive.

During his junior season, Palczewski earned All-Big Ten third team honors by the coaches after starting all 13 games in 2019. Prior to the 2020 season, Palczewski was on the Outland Trophy watch list.

The injury of Palczewski is part of a larger trend for the Illini as they struggle to keep offensive linemen healthy. The only game where all five presumed starting linemen played together was the season-opener against Wisconsin.

Barnes, only a sophomore, was just breaking into a starting role with Illinois in 2020. He made his first start agains the Scarlet Knights and then grabbed his first career interception a week later against Nebraska.

Despite not starting in the opener against the Badgers, Barnes still made himself known as he had a fumble recovery, touchdown and sack in the loss.

One piece of good news for these two is that this season will not count against their eligibility due to COVID-19. That means both can return next season with Barnes once again having sophomore status and Palczewki remaining a senior.