The Illinois defense has lost another one of its biggest playmakers.
Linebacker Houston Bates is transferring, the school announced Friday. Bates, who will be a senior next season, wants to play closer to home and will be able to do so immediately after he graduates in May.
"Houston is a terrific and bright young man, who was a great teammate on our football team," Illinois head coach Tim Beckman said in the school’s release. "We certainly would have liked to have Houston remain on the team, but he indicated that he wanted to finish closer to home and his family. We wish him nothing but the best as he moves on in his career."
The loss of Bates couples with the loss of Jonathan Brown leaves a gaping hole in the Illini linebacking corps. Bates was hardly as prolific as Brown, who finished second in the Big Ten with 119 tackles, but he did record 40 tackles and ranked second on the team with 12 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. It leaves Mason Monheim, who will be a junior, as the team’s only returning starter at linebacker.
It’s a significant loss, as the team will have to break in new starting linebackers on a defense that was one of the Big Ten’s worst a year ago, ranking last in rushing defense, second to last in total defense and third to last in scoring defense.
"I want to thank my teammates and coaches, along with everyone who supported me here at the University of Illinois and allowed me to graduate with a degree from such a prestigious institution," Bates said in the release. “I wish everyone in the Fighting Illini program nothing but the best. I'm taking this opportunity to finish my playing career closer to home so that my family and friends will be able to see me play."