Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus has decided he will leave the Illini a season early and try his hand at the NFL. The consensus first team All-American announced the decision in a school release, which you can read below.
“First, I want to congratulate my teammates and coaches for a great win against UCLA in the Fight Hunger Bowl — it was a great feeling to get back to winning, especially with a defensive performance like we had,” Mercilus said in a statement. “With that said, after a lot of prayer and discussion with my family, I have decided the time is right for me to forego my senior year and enter the 2012 NFL draft.
“I want to thank coach (Ron) Zook, coach (Vic) Koenning, coach (Keith) Gilmore and the entire Illini staff for helping me get to this point. To the entire Illinois community — students, professors, athletic department and fans — thank you for all of your support during my time here in Champaign; these have been some of the best times of my life and I will never forget all that this university means to me. Finally, thank you to my teammates — without you guys, I would not be in the position to make this decision. I have faith that Illinois will rise to the top and I will be there to support you.”
Mercilus led the country and tied a school regular season record with 16 sacks this season. He also broke the Big Ten’s single-season record with nine forced fumbles and ranked second in the country with 22.5 TFL’s.
South Carolina has seen one of the most experienced members of its secondary not only leave the program but the sport as well.
Rico McWilliams has decided to leave the Gamecocks and give up football, first-year USC head coach Will Muschamp announced Monday. No reason was given for the decision.
McWilliams had started 18 the past three seasons, but began to tumble down the depth chart in the spring and failed to gain much ground in summer camp. He had left camp early on for what were described as personal reasons, but eventually returned.
“I am back with the team and have to stay focused,” the cornerback said just three days ago.
As a redshirt junior last season, McWilliams started 10 of USC’s 12 games, the lone exceptions being the contests against Georgia and Texas A&M. He was credited with 32 tackles, two pass breakups and a fumble recovery.
Additionally, Muschamp announced that redshirt freshman wide receiver Christian Owens had left his team as well. A three-star 2015 signee, Owens didn’t play as a true freshman.
Via social media, Jim Harbaugh has attempted to walk back some of his strong talk.
Monday, the Michigan head coach was asked to comment on one of his former San Francisco 49er players, Colin Kaepernick, who kicked up quite the controversy this past week by sitting down during the playing of the national anthem to protest what he believes to be the mistreatment of African-Americans in this country. Not surprisingly, the outspoken Harbaugh didn’t mince many words.
“I acknowledge his right to do that, but I don’t respect the motivation or the action,” the coach said.
A short time later, Harbaugh took to Twitter to offer a clarification that he had no issue with Kaepernick’s motivation, merely his methods.
Even as Baylor looks to put a tumultuous offseason in the rearview mirror, the football team simply can’t get away from the dark cloud hanging over the program.
Interim head coach Jim Grobe announced Monday that Chance Waz has been suspended for the Bears’ first two games of the upcoming season. The only reason given was unspecified disciplinary issues.
The suspension will cost the defensive back games against Northwestern State and SMU. Waz will be eligible to return for the Sept. 16 game against Rice.
After playing in 11 games as a true freshman in 2014, Waz started 11 of the 13 games in which he played last season. He was again projected as a starting safety entering summer camp.
Speaking of BU starters, Ishmael Zamora is still listed as a first-team wide receiver on the final preseason depth chart released by the Bears Monday. Zamora was caught on video beating his dog with a belt and kicking it, and was ultimately charged with misdemeanor animal abuse.
Grobe said he’s still awaiting the university’s decision on what if any punishment Zamora may be facing as a result of the incident.
The West Virginia football team has had a rough go of it the last month or so.
In late July, Larry Jefferson, expected to be a part of WVU’s defensive line rotation, was arrested on drug charges and removed from the roster. This in mid-August, two-year starting safety Dravon Askew-Henry sustained a torn ACL that will knock him out for the season; shortly thereafter, starting left guard Adam Pankey was arrested on a drunk-driving charge and ultimately suspended for at least the opener against Missouri.
As it turns out, Pankey won’t be alone on the suspension sidelines as WVMetroNews.com is reporting that linebacker Xavier Preston will be suspended for the opener as well. No reason has been given for the punitive measure, and the football program has yet to confirm it.
The third-year sophomore would be eligible to return for the Sept. 10 Youngstown State game.
Preston played in 13 games last season. He has been described as the heir apparent to Nick Kwiatkowski at outside linebacker for the Mountaineers.