Illini RB Mikel Leshoure Entering NFL Draft

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Illini junior running back Mikel Leshoure held a new conference at his alma mater, Champaign Centennial high school, where he announced his entrance into the NFL Draft. And with the choice to hold a presser on this decision at his high school, he has has yet another trait in common with Pittsburgh Steelers tailback Rashard Mendenhall. Expect to hear even more Mendenhall comparisons as we enter NFL draft season.

By Paul M. Banks

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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.”

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Illini RB Mike Leshoure Sweeps National Player of the Week Awards

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Illinois Fighting Illini running back Mikel Leshoure is to this week’s national player of the week college football awards what Ohio State’s Evan Turner was to last year’s college basketball player of the year awards.

Leshoure was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week, Walter Camp Foundation National Player of the Week, Rivals.com National Player of the Week and College Football Performance Awards National Performer of the Week following his record-setting performance in Illinois’ 48-27 win over Northwestern at Wrigley Field on Saturday.

Leshoure broke Illinois’ single-game rushing record with 330 yards on 33 carries, an incredible average of 10.0 yards per carry, with two touchdowns. #5 also earned a “helmet sticker” from ESPN College Gamenight. This award goes to the top six individual performers from across the nation.

By Paul M. Banks

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Illini Mikel LeShoure: the Next Rashard Mendenhall?

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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?

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Illinois-Purdue: Brutally Honest Game Preview

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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

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lllinois vs. Northern Illinois: the Brutally Honest Game Preview

illini-scheelhaase

There’s an old adage in football that the biggest improvement a team makes is from the first week to the second. Your 2010 Illinois Fighting Illini are a true testament to this, especially starting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. He grew up a ton last week. But they have two other playmakers on both sides of the ball:

Linebacker Ian Thomas and running back Mikel LeShoure. Both are rather overlooked because Illinois is well, kind of a….”basketball school.” But Thomas can be effective both inside and out, and LeShoure has topped the 100-yard mark in both games this season, going for 112 yards on 20 carries in the opener against Missouri and 15-115 yards on 15 carries last week against SIU.

Dating back to last season, Leshoure has topped 100 yards in three straight games and in five of his last eight. During that span, Leshoure has 798 yards on 114 carries (7.0 ypc).

By Paul M. Banks

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Illini are Mikel LeShoure’s Team Now

leshoure

Illinois Fighting Illini runner Mikel LeShoure (6-0, 225) wears Rashard Mendenhall’s number (remember him? the 2008 NFL first round draft pick and current Pittsburgh Steelers star), and last year he started to display a little bit of Shard’s 2007 level of production and talent. In ’09 LeShoure rushed the ball 108 times for 734 yards and 5 TDs, averaging 6.8 yards per carry.

“When Mike Locksley was recruiting me, he was telling me that if Rashard was going to the NFL, which they thought he would, then I would get my same high school number. Turns out it worked out that way,” LeShoure said at Illini Media Day in ’09.

“Shard did take over the 2nd half of the season, and I’m sure all four of us want to be that guy,” he said later that day when tailback1 on the Illini depth chart was still in question.

In 2010, LeShoure greeted the Media as THE guy.

By Paul M. Banks

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