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Illinois sophomore DE Zarrian Holcombe was dismissed from the program after being charged with home invasion and robbery.

Holcombe got the boot along with Darta Lee and HoJo Watkins, who were charged with the same thing. Facing serious prison time -- a mandatory sentence of 4-15 years on each count if found guilty -- the players continue to contend that the incident was a prank gone wrong.
May 25 - 4:01 PM

Illinois freshman OL HoJo Watkins was one of three players dismissed from the program after being charged with home invasion and robbery.

Like OL Darta Lee and TE Zarrian Holcombe, Watkins faces a mandatory prison sentence of 4-15 years on each count if he's found guilty. The players claimed the incident was a prank.
May 25 - 2:52 PM

Illinois head coach Lovie Smith dismissed sophomore G Darta Lee.

Lee was one of three players dismissed from the program after being charged with home invasion and robbery. Each faces a mandatory prison sentence of 4-15 years on each count if found guilty. Lee was the first true freshman offensive lineman to start a season opener for Illinois in 20 years.
May 25 - 1:25 PM

Illinois HC Lovie Smith said that Illinois redshirt junior WR Mike Dudek (ACL) has been medically cleared to return to the field.

This is exciting news for Illini fans, who've patiently waited for Dudek to return to the field for the past two years. As a freshman back in 2014, Dudek dominated, snagging 76 passes for 1,038 yards and six touchdowns. He tore the ACL in his right knee in April 2015, knocking him out for that season, and then he tore the same ACL almost exactly a year later. "Mikey is totally cleared," Smith said. "He won’t go through any contact work until training camp. He’s running, doing everything right now. I don’t see any signs of anything wrong with the ACL sugery that he had. I see that same quickness that I’ve heard about, but never been able to see yet."
May 17 - 4:50 PM

Illinois DC Hardy Nickerson underwent an emergency appendectomy.

Nickerson tweeted on Friday afternoon that he had required the procedure. He had been out on a recruiting trip to Florida. Assuming a healthy recovery, this surgery should not affect his coaching outlook for the summer. Illinois hired the former Buccaneers LB coach to serve as defensive coordinator last March.
May 13 - 1:00 PM

Illinois freshman OL HoJo Watkins was one of three Illini players arrested on charges of home invasion and armed robbery on Wednesday.

Along with fellow Illinois football players Darta Lee and Zarrian Holcombe, Watkins has an arraignment scheduled for Thursday afternoon. All three are currently in the Champaign County jail. We'll update you when more is known.
May 10 - 4:42 PM

Illinois sophomore DE Zarrian Holcombe was one of three Illini players arrested on charges of home invasion and armed robbery on Wednesday.

Darta Lee and HoJo Watkins are, along with Holcombe, also currently in the Champaign County jail. The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Holcombe played in seven games as a true freshman, mostly on special teams, while working as a tight end and wide receiver. During spring practices, Illinois experimented with him on the defensive line. The trio have arraignments scheduled for Thursday afternoon.
May 10 - 1:25 PM

Illinois sophomore G Darta Lee was arrested early Wednesday morning on charges of home invasion and armed robbery.

Lee played in six games with two starts. Beat writer Jeremy Werner notes Lee "was the first true freshman offensive lineman to start a season opener in 20 years." These are obviously significant charges.
Source: Scout
May 10 - 9:57 AM

Bengals signed Illinois LB Hardy Nickerson.

Nickerson (6’0/232) was a three-year starter at Cal before transferring to Illinois as a graduate student to play for his father and Lovie Smith in 2016. While a recognizable name because of his longtime NFL linebacker dad, Nickerson was a low-impact college Mike ‘backer who managed honorable mention All-Big Ten honors last year and especially struggled against the run. Nickerson tested poorly in Indy with 4.78 speed and a sluggish 9-foot-8 broad jump. Nickerson’s bloodlines are the best thing going for him.
May 2 - 3:28 PM

Jaguars signed Illinois DE Carroll Phillips.

Phillips (6’3/242) spent just 1-of-3 seasons as a starter at Illinois, breaking out in 2016 for 20 tackles for loss and nine sacks, but only earning honorable mention All-Big Ten from the conference’s coaches. A 25-year-old rookie who bounced between three colleges and managed a 10 Wonderlic score, Phillips is undersized with off-field flags. He tested as an adequate, 47th-percentile athlete in Indy, running 4.66 with a solid 7.06 three-cone time. A low-ceiling situational pass-rusher project, Phillips would do well to carve out a Mario Addison-like career.
May 2 - 1:05 PM

Jaguars selected Illinois DE Dawuane Smoot with the No. 68 overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft.

Smoot (6’3/264) made 24 starts on the Illini defensive line, graduating sixth in school history in tackles for loss (38.5) and eighth in sacks (16.5). He was only a third-team All-Big Ten pick as a senior despite finishing second in the conference in QB pressures (43). A disruptive college edge player who was inconsistent against the run, Smoot raised athleticism question marks with 29th-percentile SPARQ results in Indy. Smoot has a place in the NFL, but it’s likely not as a starter. He would do well to become a useful situational rusher.
Apr 28 - 9:50 PM

Illinois HC Lovie Smith named junior QB Chayce Crouch the team's starter for 2017.

No waiting around for Smith and the Illini, here. Said Lovie of Crouch, who will replace the departed Wes Lunt, "He's our starting quarterback, undisputed leader of our team. I can't wait to get him back out there." The "back out there" portion of the equation is in relation to the 6-foot-4, 225-pound junior's recovery from season-ending shoulder surgery which he underwent near the end of October. Crouch did not take contact this spring, but has been medically cleared and should be ready to assume his spot atop the depth chart come the start of August camp. Prior to going down injured last season, Crouch had completed 18-of-32 passes for 249 yards and a 1/1 TD/INT ratio over the course of four games played.
Apr 21 - 7:09 PM

A regional scout for an NFL team said that he did not see anything on Illinois ILB Hardy Nickerson Jr.'s tape that would indicate an NFL player.

"He may get a legacy grade from some teams based on his tackle production and his bloodlines, but I'm struggling to find consistent tape of him where he looks like an NFL linebacker," the scout said. As to those bloodlines, his father, Hardy Nickerson Sr., carved out a 16-year career in the NFL. And as to his production, the 6-foot, 232-pounder logged 218 tackles in 15 combined games between the 2015 and 2016 campaigns. NFL Media's Lance Zierlein believes that based solely on his tape, he could have problems cracking an NFL roster.
Source: NFL.com
Apr 15 - 3:31 PM

An AFC North scout said that Illinois edge rusher Carroll Phillips "had the better season, but [Illinois edge rusher Dwayne] Smoot is more skilled and will probably be the better pro."

"Smoot will get drafted higher, I know that," the scout said. This past season, the 6-foot-3, 242-pound Phillips drew first-team All-Big Ten recognition on the strength of 58 tackles (20.0 for loss) and nine sacks. Those 20 tackles for loss were good for second-most in the FBS. It should be noted that while this particular scout believes Smoot will be the first of the two Illini edge rushers to be selected later this month, Draft Analyst's Tony Pauline does not view Smoot-over-Phillips as a done deal. He stamps both players with a Round 3/Round 4 grade.
Source: NFL.com
Apr 13 - 5:00 PM

An NFC regional scout said, "I think you have to take last year's tape into account when you study [Illinois edge rusher Dawuane Smoot]."

"He was lighter this year, which took some of his power away, I thought," the scout explained of the 6-foot-3, 264-pounder. Smoot's sharper 2015 tape doesn't necessarily show out on the statistical front when comparing the past two campaigns, as Smoot registered more tackles (56 to 39) and tackles for loss (15 to 14.5) in 2016 than he did in 2015. NFL Media's Lance Zierlein compares Smoot to Steelers LB Anthony Chickillo, while Pro Football Focus sees a little bit of sometime-injured Rams wrecking ball Robert Quinn in his game.
Source: NFL.com
Mar 30 - 5:31 PM


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