Illinois is already dealing with the loss of one of its running backs.

The Illini lost Mike Epstein during the season opener against Akron. Though the status of his injury was not immediately known, it did not look good as he was carted off the field with a towel over his head.

Unfortunately, his status was updated Monday with head coach Lovie Smith confirming Epstein will be out for the season. It is a tough blow for the team after Epstein rushed for 411 yards and was limited in 2018 as well.

RELATED: Illinois RB Mike Epstein issues statement following season-ending injury

Now, the Illini must move forward and prepare without him. Offensive coordinator Rod Smith admitted that it is tough to not sound calloused, but the team must move forward quickly with the next man up behind Reggie Corbin.

Isaac Trotter with Illini Inquirer shared Smith’s comments:

“You say it with a heavy heart, but it’s next man up. I don’t want it to be cold and calloused because I feel bad for Mike. Mike would want those guys to step up and fill his role and take off running for him. We have guys that can be starters on any team in the Big Ten in my opinion. Feel good about that room. Now they’ll have to carry a little more weight.”

Hopefully, Illinois is able to weather the storm and continue its strong play.