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Solomon Vault undergoes lower-body surgery, will miss the 2017 season

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Northwestern will be without one of its most explosive playmakers next season.

NCAA Football: Duke at Northwestern Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Northwestern wide receiver Solomon Vault underwent surgery for a lower-body injury and is expected to redshirt this season, a team spokesman told InsideNU.

The injury will be a tough blow for the Northwestern offense. With Austin Carr and Andrew Scanlan gone next season, Vault was expected to have a larger role in the offense. Vault had 15 receptions for 164 yards and two touchdowns in 2016, his first season at wide receiver.

Northwestern has decent depth and should be able to survive this loss, although it may force less-experienced players like Riley Lees and Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman into action. Flynn Nagel, Macan Wilson, Jalen Brown, Bennett Skowronek and superback Garrett Dickerson project to be the Wildcats’ main pass-catching options next season.

Perhaps more devastating to the Wildcats is the loss of Vault as the team’s primary kick returner. He has a school-record five career kickoff returns for touchdowns, and was always a threat to take one to the house with his speed. Vault’s average of 24.3 yards per return in 2016 ranked third in the Big Ten among players with at least 20 returns. He also started at kick returner in 2015, averaging over 26 yards per return, and did some returning as a true freshman in 2014. It is unclear who will compete to take over for Vault this season, but whoever it is, they will be significantly less experienced.

Vault is the second Northwestern player slated to miss time next season; cornerback Trae Williams will be out until at least October with a torn Achilles.

Vault will have one year of eligibility remaining for the 2018 season.