One of the Big Ten’s rising stars, Illinois defensive end Jihad Ward, will miss the first two games of the season. Illini coach Tim Beckman announced the news during media availability on Friday.

Ward was named “Most Underrated Player in the Big Ten” in Fox Sports college football writer Bruce Feldman’s conference preview. Fox Sports also said he was Illinois’ most important player of 2015.

Last year, Illinois had the Big Ten’s worst defense, which was also ranked last against the run. The 6-6, 295-pound senior recovered four fumbles last year, good for second in the country.

The Illini will have to replace Ward’s 8.5 tackles for loss and three sacks in 2014.

The Illinois will kick off the season against Kent State on Sept. 4.