Cardinals RB Rashard Mendenhall explains his retirement

mendenhall

Arizona Cardinals running back Rashard Mendenhall will retire. Yes, at the tender age of 26. How’s that for a surprise to kick off NFL free agency?

UPDATE: Rashard Mendenhall explains his retirement decision to HuffPo

ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter first reported this development. Mendenhall battled turf toe for much last season. When he finally got to be 100%, Mendenhall scored five touchdowns in his final eight games. Rashard Mendenhall was “kind of a big deal” coming out of Niles West high school. As a five-star prospect, he was rated the No. 1 recruit in the state of Illinois by Scout.com. He committed to Ron Turner and the Illini where re-wrote the Illinois single season rushing record book.

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#22/#18 Arizona State Sun Devils vs. Illinois Fighting Illini: Brutally Honest Game Preview

Illini Need Wide Receiver Ryan Lankford to Develop Into Third Option

Illinois Fighting Illini WR Ryan Lankford was the team’s most improved player this spring practice session. But he didn’t have a catch on Saturday in the big 33-15 win over Arkansas State. Someone preferably Lankford needs to become Illinois’ third option.

Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase threw for a career-best 267 yards. His 16 completions went to A.J. Jenkins, who had 11 catches for 148 yards and a touchdown, and Darius Millines, who caught five balls for 119 yards and a score.

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Illinois Fighting Ilini Season Preview: Offense

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Last year the Illinois Fighting Illini got a bowl win for the first time since 1999, a 38-14 drubbing of Baylor in Houston that kind of resembled their last bowl win, a 63-21 destruction of Virginia. The offense got very hot down the stretch last season, so hot that the unit set new records for points scored and total points.

This year QB Nathan Scheelhaase is up for the Maxwell Award, and the dual threat quarterback made huge strides towards the end of last year. He completed his first 12 passes (including all in the first half) of the Texas Bowl, and tossed just 1 interception in his final 7 games. He set a school record for rushing yards by a QB (858) and had a very solid 17-8 TD-INT ratio. The redshirt freshman no doubt benefited greatly form the extra practices that comes along with bowl prep.

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Jason Ford Needs to be Illini Football BMOC

When Rashard Mendenhall left the Illinois Fighting Illini with a year of eligibility left in 2007, for the NFL Draft, Illinois suffered the next year. Aside from that whole “planes cannot take down a building” tweets of idiocy and the sponsorship pullout that followed, things have gone pretty well for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Mendenhall.

But for the two years that followed, the running game suffered in Champaign. They struggled to find both offensive balance and an heir to ‘Shard. Until last year when Mikel Leshoure, wearing the same jersey #5, and also in his junior season grabbed the position and broke almost all of those big time single season school rushing records that Mendenhall had just broke in 2007. Leshoure left school early just like ‘Shard and was also a high round NFL draft pick.

What does 2011 hold?

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#38 Illinois Fighting Illini: College Football 77 in 77

nathan-scheelhaase

If there’s one thing I know in life, it’s that Illinois college football never ever conforms to your expectations. No one saw their two BcS appearances coming (2001, 2007); and since they followed both seasons up with sub .500 choking, both these bowl appearances are now looked upon as fluky. Whenever Illinois has been predicted to do well (2000, 2002, 2008, 2009) they fell flat on their faces. And their bowl wins (last year, 1999) come in seasons when everyone predicts them to finish near the Big Ten basement.

And I know a lot about this stuff.

My first ever sports memory was their destruction at the hands of UCLA in the 1984 Rose Bowl. I attended my first Illini game in 1991. In addition to covering the team for the school paper when I was in school there, two of my older siblings went to UI. In other words, it’s “my team,” and one of the three teams I cover regularly. So I know this stuff! And I’m excited to finally reach my team in the 77 in 77 (after all, Illini legend Red Grange, the greatest player the game has ever known) partially inspired this segment.

So where will the Illinois Fighting Illini finish this season?

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Illini Running Back Situation: Who takes over for Mikel Leshoure?

mikel-leshoure

When Rashard Mendenhall left the Illinois Fighting Illini with a year of eligibility left in 2007, for the NFL Draft, Illinois suffered the next year. Aside from that whole “planes cannot take down a building” tweets of idiocy and the sponsorship pullout that followed, things have gone pretty well for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Mendenhall.

But for the two years that followed, the running game suffered in Champaign. They struggled to find both offensive balance and an heir to ‘Shard. Until last year when Mikel Leshoure, wearing the same jersey #5, and also in his junior season grabbed the position and broke almost all of those big time single season school rushing records that Mendenhall had just broke in 2007. Leshoure left school early just like ‘Shard and was also a high round NFL draft pick.

What does 2011 hold? Hopefully, history doesn’t repeat.

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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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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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