Detroit Lions 2nd Round Pick Mikel LeShoure, Out for Season, Torn Achilles

Yet another reason to compare Detroit Lions second round pick, running back Mikel Leshoure, to Steelers tailback Rashard Mendenhall. They were both the feature back for one season for the Illinois Fighting Illini before bolting early for the NFL.

Both wore the same jersey number in college football before being taken in the same range on draft day. Now both have seen their rookie seasons lost to injury. Mendenhall was shut down on placed on IR in week four of the 2008 season after just 19 carries.

[Read more…]

NFL Draft’s First Two Rounds Will Feature Some Illini

For the fourth year in a row, the first couple rounds of the NFL Draft will feature a couple names from your Illinois Fighting Illini. Tailback Rashard Mendendall went in the first round in ’08, cornerback Vontae Davis was the 25th overall pick in ’09, and last year, wide receiver Arrelious Benn was just a couple picks off from being a first round selection.

With all this next level talent in Champaign, you may wonder “how come they went 8-16 during 2008-09? Well, that’s why we saw two new coordinators come in the summer before 2010. Explains a lot.

This draft will see three prospects likely to go in the first two rounds. We won’t see as many Illini choosen in this draft as we did last year, but this trio of underclassmen RB Mikel Leshoure, DT Corey Liuget and LB Martez Wilson will go higher (or as Bulls analyst Stacey King said “GO HIGHER”) than last year.

But this year, the draft seems much more satisfying because the Illini actually won a bowl game; their first since 1999.

By Paul M. Banks

[Read more…]

Breaking: Illini LB Martez Wilson Entering NFL Draft

martez-wilson

And the first of the three Illinois Fighting Illini dominoes falls. Linebacker Martez Wilson, the player with the lowest draft stock of the three, is declaring for the NFL Draft. This is a big surprising to me, as he had a good, but not great season in 2010. And his junior season was much more productive than his other two years in school.

Still, you know the NFL scouts love measurables and potential as much if not more than on-the-field resume, so maybe Tez should try his luck. No word on Corey Liuget yet, but rumors are he’s leaving. We have also heard nothing definitive on the Mikel Leshoure front as of yet.

According to the Chicago Tribune’s Shannon Ryan:

[Read more…]

2010 Illinois Football Season: the Official Exit Interview

mikel-leshoure

Back in June I gave an interview to collegefootballzealots.com previewing the upcoming University of Illinois college football season. I was pretty negative and pessimistic.

And it takes a big man to admit when he’s wrong. So I guess that makes me roughly the size of Jon Asamoah then because I was wrong about a few things. But fresh off a return from the Texas Bowl victory, here’s my exit interview for the same site; recapping the season.

By Paul M. Banks

[Read more…]

Mikel Leshoure to Rashard Mendenhall Comparisons Running Wild Now

leshoure

Given that they are/were both Illinois Fighting Illini, wore the same jersey number, played the same position, and didn’t break out until their junior year (and when they broke out, they really did it in style) it’s inevitable to compare current Illini tailback Mikel Leshoure to current Pittsbrugh Steelers star running back Rashard Mendenhall.

Heck, I wrote a column about it in October.

And after Leshoure’s huge, record-setting game in the Texas Bowl, more people are making the analogy. Leshoure was even asked the question Wednesday night, in the post-game press conference. Both are local products. Leshoure is from Champaign (Centenniel h.s.) and Mendenhall is from suburban Skokie (Niles West h.s.).

By Paul M. Banks

[Read more…]

Texas Bowl Sees Illinois and Baylor Break Numerous Records

baylor_cheerleading

Last night’s college football match-up won38-14 by the Illinois Fighting Illini over Baylor broke a bunch of Texas Bowl, bowl history in the city of Houston, as well as Illinois and Baylor records. Seriously, there were a ton, but here are some of the most notable.

-The Illini tied the Texas Bowl record for most points scored 38 and most net yards gained at 533.

-Leshoure tied a Texas Bowl (and Houston Bowl game) record for most touchdowns with 3, rushed for a Texas Bowl record 187 yards.

-Scheelhaase set a Texas Bowl record for most consecutive passes completed at 13, completion percentage of 78.0. highest average gain per pass attempt (min. 20 attempts) at 13.4 yards. Both also highest in Houston bowl game history.

leshoure

[Read more…]

Scheelhaase, Illini Put Texas (Bowl) Sized Whooping on Baylor

texas-bowl

It was exactly like the first (and only) time Chicago and Houston met in a major postseason sporting event. Granted the stakes in the college football Texas Bowl were much lower than that of the 2005 MLB World Series between the Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros; and Baylor University is about as geographically far from Houston as the University of Illinois is from Chicago.

But the results were as similarly lopsided as when the Sox swept the ‘Stros in the ’05 Fall Classic. Both times the stars at night, were big and bright, for the team opposing the heart of Texas.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, and his Illinois Fighting Illini teammates certainly looked like they benefited from the 15 extra practices that come from obtaining a bowl berth, as the Illini put up 533 yards of total offense and 38 points; breaking the school record set during the Champaign campaign of 2001.

By Paul M. Banks

[Read more…]

Texas Forever! Illini vs. Baylor: Brutally Honest Bowl Game Preview

lyla garrity

Like they say in Dillon, deep in the heart of Texas, “Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. CAN’T LOSE!”  Yes, the Illinois Fighting Illini best adopt the philosophy of fictional football Coach Erik Taylor and his East Dillon Lions in the dramatic television series “Friday Night Lights.”

The Illini have their work cut out for them, only 1.5 point underdogs, but they’re playing in enemy territory, taking on a school that’s fired up about their first bowl appearance in 17 years, at a stadium less than three hours drive from campus.

Indeed Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers, won’t be the only NFL stadium where a local team in blue and orange is surrounded by an adversarial crowd in green and gold. Reliant Stadium, home of the Houston Texans, and college basketball’s next Final Four, will have a decidedly pro-Baylor slant when the Texas Bowl kicks off Wednesday night at 5.

“Texas forever, Street.”

[Read more…]

Mikel Leshoure Breaks Illinois Rushing Record at Wrigley Field

MIKEL LESHOURE…YOU ARE RIDICULOUS!!!

With many apologies to Jeff Joniak of the Chicago Bears Radio Network, on Saturday, November 20th, 2010, at Wrigley Field, Mikel Leshoure truly was ridiculous.

With the entire Illinois offense on his shoulders, Leshoure rushed for an Illinois-school-single-game-record 330 yards on 33 carries, and in the process also set a single-game rushing record at Wrigley Field. It was the fifth-most yards in Big Ten history, fourth-most yards in a Big Ten conference game and the most yards in an FBS game since Navy’s Shun White ran for 348 yards on August 30th of 2008. [Read more…]

Illini, Wolverines take Home Big 10 POW Awards. No Surprise!

leshoure

On Saturday, the Illini and Wolverines played a college football game that was to offense what Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi is to hair-sprayed “poofs.” The two squads also played defense in the same manner that the “Jersey Shore” promotes literacy.

Anyways, the game was an instant triple overtime classic in which the two football teams combined to score more points than in eight of their last nine college basketball meetings. For one Saturday, the Big Ten became the WAC.

Not surprisingly, one player from each team, Illini Mikel LeShoure and Michigan’s Roy Roundtree

By Paul M. Banks

[Read more…]

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?

[Read more…]

Illinois-Purdue: Brutally Honest Game Preview

illini-cheerleader

When you hear Illinois vs. Purdue, its sounds like a great Big Ten Tournament title game in Men’s basketball right? Well this Saturday the match on the gridiron, features two teams that will likely end up bowl eligible, so the winner likely gets a leg up in the bowl selection hierarchy come December.

Is Illinois the greatest 4-3 team in history? Maybe! They have faced the toughest schedule in the nation thus far according to the official NCAA schedule strength rankings. Illinois’ opponents have a combined record of 35-9 this season vs. Division I opponents (not counting their game vs. Illinois).

The three losses this season (Missouri, Ohio State and Michigan State) have a combined record of 22-1, with all three ranked in the top-11 of the current BCS standings. Illinois led two of the games at halftime and was on the verge of tying Ohio State late in the game before falling short in the red zone late in the fourth quarter.

By Paul M. Banks

[Read more…]