The season hasn’t started yet, but the Illini defense has already taken a loss as incumbent LEO Houston Bates has decided to transfer to a school closer to home so that his family can watch him play his final collegiate season. Head Coach Tim Beckman provided his take in the official release from fightingillini.com which also includes a quote from Bates and can be seen here.
“Houston is a terrific and bright young man, who was a great teammate on our football team,” Head Football Coach Tim Beckman said. “We certainly would have liked to have Houston remain on the team, but he indicated that he wanted to finish closer to home and his family. We wish him nothing but the best as he moves on in his career.”
This announcement makes it all the more important that recent JUCO signees Jihad Ward and Carroll Philips hit the ground running when they officially begin practice. If it wasn’t obvious before that their contributions would be needed in the upcoming season, it’s suddenly become much more apparent now.
Bates finished last season second on the team in both tackles for loss (12) and sacks (3.5). This production essentially made him the most important returning member of a defensive unit that struggled for much of the Big Ten campaign because they had already lost their team leader, Jonathan Brown, who had expended his eligibility.
Good luck to Bates wherever he may land.
You can follow Ryan on Twitter @RPKraemer.