Illini running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn announces transfer

keshawn-vaughn-0118.jpg
USA TODAY

Illini running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn announces transfer

The guy who went into last season looking like the Illini's biggest offensive weapon announced his transfer Wednesday.

Ke'Shawn Vaughn announced on Twitter that he'll be transferring away from Lovie Smith's program. His decision comes after a 2016 season in which he started the as the team's primary running back and finished as the third option in the Illinois backfield.

"After much thought, consideration and discussing this with my family, I have decided to explore different avenues to obtain my bachelor's and athletic endeavors," Vaughn wrote on Twitter. "I want to take a moment to express my appreciation to the University of Illinois and the coaching staff for the opportunity to not only gain experience academically but as an athlete as well. Will forever love the Illini Nation."

Vaughn played in 11 of the Illini's 12 games this past season, finishing as the team's third-leading rusher with 301 yards. He trailed Kendrick Foster (720 yards) and Reggie Corbin (523 yards), who emerged as the offense's preferred rushing options.

Vaughn had one big game in 2016, rushing for 116 yards and a touchdown in Illinois' 48-23 loss to North Carolina. Take that game out, and Vaughn totaled a mere 185 yards in his other 10 games. His carries plummeted after the first two weeks. After rushing 17 times in the opener and 15 times against North Carolina, Vaughn received just 28 carries the remainder of the season, including just one carry in four separate games.

The lack of production and opportunity doesn't make Vaughn's transfer much of a surprise. But in light of what he did as a true freshman just one season earlier, the fact that Vaughn is departing says something.

Recruited by Tim Beckman, Vaughn was one of the Illini's highest-rated recruits in that 2015 class. He rushed for 723 yards on just 157 carries as Josh Ferguson's backup, including turning in a huge 180-yard, two-touchdown game in a 48-14 win over Purdue.

Now, he'll continue his career elsewhere.

Illini dominated in ugly blowout loss at Purdue

swanigan-morgan-0117.jpg
AP

Illini dominated in ugly blowout loss at Purdue

If the Illini are actually going to snap their NCAA tournament drought, quite simply they've got to stop playing like this.

Illinois was blown out of Mackey Arena on Tuesday night. Yes the 91-68 loss to Purdue came at the hands of one of the Big Ten's best on its home floor. But the Illini were atrocious on both ends of the floor, missing a boatload of shots and giving the Boilermakers anything and everything they wanted on the other end.

Look no further than the shooting percentages, which aptly if not fully tell the story of how things went for both teams. Purdue shot 60.4 percent from the floor. Illinois shot 40.3 percent.

Despite holding Big Ten Player of the Year candidate Caleb Swanigan to just one made basket in the first half, the Illini ended up getting dominated by the Boilers' big-man tandem of Swanigan and Isaac Haas. Swanigan, of course, turned in a double-double with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Haas dominated with 24 points and six rebounds. He was 9-for-12 from the field and 6-for-7 from the free-throw line.

For Purdue, it was a terrific response to its loss at Iowa last week. With the Big Ten a seeming league of mediocrity this far into the 2016-17 campaign, the Boilers still hold a top spot in the views of many. A win over Illinois won't vault Purdue into national title contender status, but winning by 23 is never a bad thing for the resume.

For the Illini, things were disastrous from the get-go. The Boilers used a big 16-3 run early in the game to establish a double-digit lead they didn't relinquish the rest of the way. That advantage grew as big as 16 in the first half as Purdue shot 60 percent over the first 20 minutes and splashed home five of their nine attempts from 3-point range. Swanigan made just one shot in the first, but Carsen Edwards and Haas scored 12 and 11 points, respectively. Illinois, meanwhile, couldn't cut into that lead, shooting just 36.1 percent from the floor in the first half. The individual shooting numbers were bad all around, with Tracy Abrams 0-for-4, Jalen Coleman-Lands 1-for-5 and Leron Black 1-for-5.

Things didn't get any better for the visitors in the second half. Their shooting numbers improved marginally as time wore on, but the Boilers stayed red hot, shooting 60.7 percent after halftime. Haas and Swanigan stayed dominant, with 31 of their combined 46 points coming over the final 40 minutes.

Maverick Morgan finished as Illinois' leading scorer with 15 points. Malcolm Hill scored 12 points, and Te'Jon Lucas scored 10 points.

Carsen Edwards finished with 14 for Purdue, with Vincent Edwards adding 11 points and P.J. Thompson scoring 10 points.

It was an ugly showing for the Illini, who could find their NCAA tournament hopes fading fast. Illinois sits at 12-7 overall with a mere 2-4 record in Big Ten play, losers of four of its last six. Things don't get too much easier, with games against Michigan, Iowa, Penn State, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Northwestern upcoming. Three of those come away from Champaign, where the Illini are 3-5 this season.

Purdue bounced back from that road defeat at Iowa last week with Tuesday's win. The Boilers are 15-4 overall and 4-2 in the conference, looking like one of the league's top teams. Next up is a Saturday game against Penn State.

Janarion Grant will return to Rutgers for fifth season in 2017

janarion-grant-0924.png
USA TODAY

Janarion Grant will return to Rutgers for fifth season in 2017

One of the most explosive players in the Big Ten will be back for the 2017 season.

Rutgers announced Tuesday that do-it-all man Janarion Grant will be back on the field for the Scarlet Knights this fall. Grant suffered a leg injury in the team's fourth game of the season and missed the last eight games of the campaign.

"Fifth year, here I come! I'm excited about what I have been able to accomplish so far, but I look forward to getting out there and competing with my teammates again," Grant said in the announcement. "I thank coach (Chris) Ash and the staff as well as my family for their support through this process. Let's make this season special. Go Knights!"

Grant is tied for the all-time NCAA lead in kick-return touchdowns with eight. He's got five kickoff-return touchdowns and three punt-return touchdowns.

This past season, Grant got off to a lightning-quick start, scoring six total touchdowns. In just four games, he totaled 210 receiving yards, 195 kickoff-return yards and a kickoff-return touchdown, 138 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns, 21 passing yards and a passing touchdown and 112 punt-return yards and a punt-return touchdown.

Grant is Rutgers' all-time leader in kickoff-return yards with 2,606, and he ranks fourth in program history in all-purpose yards with 4,251.

The Knights were offensively challenged in Ash's first season as head coach, dead last in the conference with an average of 15.7 points per game and 283.2 yards per game. Former Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill was hired earlier this offseason as the team's new offensive coordinator.