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CHAMPAIGN – Illinois junior tailback Mikel Leshoure was scheduled to talk to Ron Zook by early today to discuss his NFL draft decision.
Underclassmen like Leshoure have until Jan. 15 to make a decision. Players aren't allowed to enter the draft until three years after their high school careers ended.
Leshoure started at Illinois a semester early, joining the team in January 2008, just days after the team played in the Rose Bowl.
As a freshman, the two-time News-Gazette All-Stater from Centennial gained 126 yards on 35 carries and scored a touchdown.
His workload increased in 2009. Leshoure ran 108 times for 734 yards and five touchdowns. He also had 14 catches for 177 yards and two more scores.
As a junior, Leshoure broke several Illinois single-season records and earned second-team All-America honors. He was the star of Illinois' Texas Bowl win against Baylor, scoring three touchdowns and being named MVP.
Leshoure set school season records for rushing (1,697 yards), points (122), touchdowns (20), 100-yard games (nine) and consecutive 100-yard games (five). He has 2,557 yards for his career, which is tied with Juice Williams for sixth on the career rushing list. If he returns for his senior season, Leshoure will have a good chance to break Robert Holcombe's career rushing total.
As of Wednesday afternoon, 15 players had announced their plans to turn pro early. That number is expected to triple. The only early entry among the running backs, so far, was UConn's Jordan Todman.
Illinois has had an early entry in the draft for three consecutive seasons. Running back Rashard Mendenhall (Steelers) was a first-round pick in 2008, and cornerback Vontae Davis (Dolphins) was a first-round pick in 2009. Receiver Arrelious Benn (Bucs) went in the second round in 2010.