Top 10 most painful Illinois football transfer portal departures of all time

There isn't a long history of transfer portal departures from the Illinois football program, but there are some painful ones we should remember
Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl - Illinois v Louisiana Tech
Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl - Illinois v Louisiana Tech / Ronald Martinez/GettyImages
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6. Tre Watson

Illinois seemed to be getting back on track in the mid-2010s, as we made a bowl game in 2015. We also had a solid linebacker coming up who was going to be a pretty good piece for the program in Tre Watson.

Watson was looked over by many programs coming out of Tampa Catholic High School. He was only a two-star recruit, but Illinois saw potential in the kid. He committed to the Illini and had a pretty solid career.

After a redshirt season in 2014, Watson started to gain traction on the football field. He played in every game in 2015, and then he started in 15 games the next two seasons for the Illini. In 2016, Watson had 102 tackles and three forced fumbles on his way to an All-Big Ten honorable mention list.

Watson didn’t finish his career with the Illini, though. He played three seasons with Illinois and transferred out in 2018. He ended up picking in-conference foe Maryland as his landing spot.

Illinois was struggling with the transition of a new coaching staff after the 2017 season. The Illini also struggled on the field going 4-8 overall, including a 63-33 loss to a 5-7 Maryland team. Watson did have a big year, amassing 114 tackles, five interceptions, three pass deflections, one sack, and one forced fumble.

Lovie Smith likes defense, and losing a tenacious defender like Watson hurt. He could have been a huge part of the Illini defense in 2018. Losing him is a big reason we only won four games that season.