Bates will transfer from Illinois

Bates will transfer from Illinois

Houston Bates chuckled when asked four months ago how long the drive from Champaign to his hometown of Covington, La., takes him.

Roughly 14 hours.

"Every time I drive home, I tell myself I'm never doing that again," Bates said at the time.

The drive home for Bates just became shorter.

On Friday morning, Bates announced he was transferring from Illinois, forgoing his final year of eligibility for the chance to play at a school closer to his home.

Bates — who will graduate from Illinois in May — didn't indicate what school he might attend.

Bates started at the LEO position for Illinois last year, making 40 tackles, including 12 for loss, which was second-higest on the team.

Those numbers helped him earn an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection by the media.

“Houston is a terrific and bright young man, who was a great teammate on our football team,” Illinois coach Tim Beckman said in a statement. “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.”

Bates will be eligible to play immediately at a different school if he chooses to do so.

Originally an LSU commit, Bates redshirted the 2010 season before playing in mostly a reserve role at linebacker his next two seasons.

With Bates' departure, DeJazz Woods, Dawaune Smoot and Paul James would likely compete for the starting LEO position once spring practices begin on Wednesday.

"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 a statement. "My degree ... allows me to accomplish whatever I want in my life. 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."

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