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

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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 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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