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Illinois WR Dudek moves to No. 1 among nation's freshmen

CHAMPAIGN — With a 115-yard day in Illinois’ 16-14 victory over Penn State on Saturday, Mikey Dudek took the lead among all FBS freshmen in receiving yards per game, with 82.0.

Dudek, who caught 11 passes, has 62 grabs for 902 yards and five touchdowns on the season. He has soared past Arrelious Benn to become the Illini’s top freshman receiver of all time and pushed Bowling Green’s Roger Lewis into the No. 2 spot in yards per game in 2014. Lewis, who had two catches for only 16 yards on Saturday, now sits at 79.5

The rest of the freshman top five: Baylor’s K.D. Cannon (76.1, UNLV’s Devonte Boyd (76.0) and Penn State’s DaeSean Hamilton (72.1). Only Cannon has more receiving touchdowns than Dudek, with six.

“I get thankful every time my number gets called,” Dudek said. “I work really hard off the field, too. I’m in here once and sometimes twice a day with Coach [Mike] Bellamy learning the defenses, which is something I didn’t really know well in high school.”

Illini fans have to be thankful for Bellamy’s relationship with Dudek, who attended Neuqua Valley in Naperville. Dudek — generously listed by Illinois at 5-11, 185 — was lightly recruited, with no scholarship offers from FBS schools until the Illini came along. Bellamy told him he could become the school’s all-time leading receiver.

If that sounded a little nutty then, it sure doesn’t now. David Williams’ mark of 3,392 might be only two good seasons away for a guy the school’s seemingly ever-shrinking fan base is making more and more noise about. Every time Dudek makes a play, “Dude K” tweets are sure to follow, and with good reason — he’s the Illini’s best player right now, and it isn’t even close.


Twitter: @slgreenberg