The slot receiver position looms large in concocting a dangerous offensive scheme. It’s not to be mistaken for a slot machine.
Or should it?
In the case of the University of Illinois, the Fighting Illini put a quarter in the slot, yanked the lever, and struck gold with freshman receiver Mike Dudek.
Similar to the slot machine, the receiver from Naperville, Illinois was prone to seeing 7’s light up, though on the scoreboard, as Dudek hauled in six receiving touchdowns to go along with his 1,038 receiving yards, ranking third in the conference.
I caught up with Dudek as the Illini prepare for yet another season of Big 10 football:
AK: Regarding your hometown, fellow running back Josh Ferguson also resides from the same area. How has the familiarity of someone you’ve grown up next to helped you ease into your first year at Illinois?
MD: It has helped a lot. Just going into the locker room seeing a familiar face really makes it feel more welcoming. It helped me adjust a lot quicker than I would have had I not know anyone.
AK: Playing in the Big 10, obviously it’s not easy to jump right into the game speed right away. Did you have any sort of “welcome to college football” moment early in the regular season?
MD: Yes, my first attempt at a catch I dropped. This really made me realize that college football isn’t what high school was like because of how fast the DB closed on the ball.
AK: After going through the while recruiting process, what was the deciding factor or factors in choosing the University of Illinois?
MD: I was not highly recruited. But I have always wanted to play for my home state.
AK: The offense last season showed a ton of bright spots, especially in the vertical passing game. Do you feel that moving to more of the high-tempo, spread offense last season was due to catching up with the rest of the nation, or that you guys adjusted the game plan to better fit the speed you possess on offense?
MD: What ever our coach thinks is best is what is best. Of course I love the fast passed style though.
AK: Most memorable moment throughout your freshman year?
MD: Beating our rival Northwestern to make it to a bowl game. I will never forget that moment.
AK: Ohio State wins the title in 2015, Michigan gets Jim Harbaugh, and the Big 10 shapes up as a whole. What do you mark as the key factor for Illinois making a statement in the conference next season?
MD: A key factor is winning the conference. That’s our goal and if we do so it sets a statement for a lifetime.
Best of luck to Mike and the Fighting Illini as they prepare for the 2015 college football season.