Illini Mikel LeShoure: the Next Rashard Mendenhall?


leshoure

The Illini could very well run the table the rest of the way. Even if they don’t, already at 5-3, (3-2 in Big Ten) they have greatly improved upon last year’s 3-9 mark and will likely make their way into a pretty decent bowl. This season has been a pleasant surprise to say the least.

Among the talent on the Illini roster is a trio of juniors with NFL level measurables and potential. Tailback Mike LeShoure, Middle Linebacker Martez Wilson and Defensive Tackle Corey Liuget will probably all be playing on Sundays.

Given that Champaign’s Mikel LeShoure inherited the starting position from another in-state product, Skokie’s Rashard Mendenhall, who wore the same number, it’s impossible not to compare LeShoure his predecessor. He even earned the starting spot later in his college career like Shard did. So will he forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft like Mendenhall did?

It’s quite possible.

LeShoure has gotten himself into tremendous physical shape, dropping seven pounds from last season and reducing his body fat to 4.2%

“I started watching my diet last year, and it showed in my play, I felt like I was able to sustain drives longer without coming out,” he said. Obviously, he’s made some sacrifices for his own health, and for the good of the team, so I asked him what his guilty pleasures are.

“I love fried foods, fried chicken, fried fish and I used to eat kind of late sometimes. And instead of having a snack, fruit or something, I would make pizza rolls or something like that,”  Mikel answered.

The Doak Walker award candidate is fourth in the Big Ten and 25th in the nation in rushing (97.5 ypg).

Last Saturday LeShoure discussed how much all that extra conditioning has paid off for him. “Being out there to take more plays, being able to push through in the fourth quarter. That’s been the biggest advantage,” he said.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest webzine. He’s also a regular contributor to the Tribune’s Chicago Now network, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank

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