Northwestern fans held their breath when defensive end Corey Wootton went down with a knee injury in the fourth quarter of the Valero Alamo Bowl.
Now they can exhale again.
Head coach Pat Fitzgerald told Adam Rittenberg of ESPN.com that Wootton will be ready for the start of the 2009 season.
Fitzgerald said that he didn't know the specifics of Wootton's injury but that he expects the junior to undergo surgery soon and be ready for Camp Kenosha in August.
Rittenberg wrote in his Big Ten Blog that he spoke with Fitzgerald before the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on Monday night, where Fitzgerald was honored as one of 14 College Football Hall of Fame inductees.
Wootton's right knee buckled while rushing Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel in the Alamo Bowl. He had to be helped off the field and didn't return.
The Wildcats lost to Missouri, 30-23, in overtime.
Wootton, a first-team All-Big Ten selection, led the Wildcats with 16 tackles for loss and 10 sacks in 2008. He is a vital member of a Northwestern defense that was vastly improved in 2008, ranking fourth in the Big Ten in scoring defense (19.3 points per game) after placing 10th in 2007 (31).
Next season, the Wildcats will be returning eight of the 11 defensive players that started in the Alamo Bowl. Northwestern's defense limited the powerhouse Missouri offense to just 23 points in regulation in that contest, less than half of what the Tigers had averaged in the regular season.