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Illinois officially welcomes Georgia transfer TE Luke Ford

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Illinois may not have been able to secure a commitment from the top player in the state coming out of high school, but the Illini got him now. Tight end Luke Ford has officially been added to the Illinois football program, as announced today the school Tuesday.

Ford announced his intent to transfer from Georgia to Illinois a few days ago. In his previous statement about his decision to leave the Bulldogs, Ford cited a desire to be closer to his family due to the health of his grandparents and the cost for his family to travel to see him play each week. Illinois head coach Lovie Smith mentioned that factor in a statement about the addition of Ford to the roster.

“Luke Ford was the top-rated recruit in the state of Illinois his senior year and we worked very hard in developing a great relationship during his recruitment,” Smith said in a released statement. “It’s not unusual for athletes wanting to be near home so that family members are close by, and we are extremely happy that Luke felt Illinois was the place for him to attend school and play football after making the decision to transfer.”

Smith and Illinois have been busy adding to their roster with transfer players this offseason. Illinois previously added Miami wide receiver Jeff Thomas and Oklahoma wide receiver A.D. Miller. Minnesota defensive back Rey Estes also previously announced his decision to transfer to Illinois.

Texas losing top receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey to NFL

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When it comes to wide receivers and early declarations, Texas is batting .500 in the new year.

Last Thursday, Collin Johnson announced that he would be returning to UT for his senior season.  It was thought that Longhorns teammate and fellow receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey was leaning toward making himself available for the NFL draft; Tuesday, Humphrey confirmed via Twitter that he’s leaving his remaining eligibility on the table and taking the early leap into the NFL’s draft pool.

This past season, Humphrey led the Longhorns in receptions (86), receiving yards (1,176) and receiving touchdowns (nine).  The 6-4, 222-pound Humphrey came into the 2018 season with 446 yards and one touchdown on 39 receptions in the previous two years combined.

The good news for the Longhorns, which finished inside the final Associated Press Top 25 rankings, is that, thus far, Humphrey is the only known draft-eligible Longhorn who has opted to leave early.  The deadline to submit paperwork to be included in the 2019 draft is Jan. 14.

Iowa State WR Hakeem Butler declares for NFL draft

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It was a one-two offensive punch to the gut for Iowa State Monday.

Late this morning, David Montgomery, who has led the Cyclones in rushing the past three seasons, announced in a statement posted on Twitter that he has decided to forego his remaining collegiate eligibility in order to declare for the April draft.  Nearly 10 hours later, teammate and leading receiver Hakeem Butler used the same social media vehicle to deliver the same message.

Butler led the Cyclones with 60 receptions and nine receiving touchdowns while also setting the single-season school record in receiving yards with 1,318. His 101.4 yards per game were third in the Big 12 and ninth nationally.

In ISU’s Alamo Bowl loss to Washington State that turned out to be the final game of his collegiate career, the 6-6. 219-pound Butler set career highs in catches (nine) and receiving yards (192).

Texas WR Collin Johnson eschewing NFL, returning to Longhorns

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While not many have before him, one productive and immensely-talented Power Five player is bucking the trend of cannonballing early into the NFL draft pool.

On Twitter Thursday afternoon, Collin Johnson announced that, “after a lot of prayer and talking with my family,” he will be returning to Texas for his senior season.  The move comes a couple of days after UT convincingly handled Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.

Johnson’s decision is a significant one for the Longhorns’ offense in 2019.

This past season, Johnson’s 68 receptions for 985 yards and seven touchdowns were all second on the Longhorns to Lil'Jordan Humphrey‘s 86-1,176-9.  It’s widely expected that, unlike Johnson, Humphrey won’t be returning to Austin for his senior season and will instead make himself available for the 2019 NFL Draft.  Humphrey, though, hasn’t made that decision official as of this posting.

As previously noted, draft-eligible players have until Jan. 15 to officially submit their paperwork to the NFL.

Hollywood heads to NFL as Oklahoma loses top receiver

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For the second time in as many days, Oklahoma has lost a starter on the offensive side of the ball.

New Year’s Day, starting right tackle Cody Ford utilized Twitter to announce he was foregoing his final season with the Sooners and making himself available for the NFL draft a couple of months down the road.  A day later, teammate and leading receiver Marquise Brown used the same social media site to make the same announcement.

Brown topped a 1,000 yards receiving each of the past two seasons, totaling 1,318 in 2018 and 1,095 in 2017.  He’ll finish his collegiate career with 132 receptions and 17 receiving touchdowns.

None of those stats came in the College Football Playoff loss to Alabama as a foot injury suffered in the Big 12 championship game limited him significantly against the Crimson Tide.