Nelson, Odenigbo to leave program

Nelson, Odenigbo to leave program

CHAMPAIGN — Two of the top tacklers on the Illinois football team this season, both originally scheduled to return, have decided instead to seek other options.

A day after linebacker Tre Watson announced plans to transfer, safety Pat Nelson followed him out the door. The News-Gazette has learned that defensive lineman Tito Odenigbo will also transfer from the Illini.

Despite missing time this season with injuries, Watson and Nelson both had 65 tackles to tie for third on the team. Linebacker Del'Shawn Phillips led the team with 85 tackles, and safety Stanley Green was second with 70.

Watson and Nelson were both signed by Tim Beckman and were working with their third head coach during their Illini careers.

Watson, a Tampa, Fla., native, is a graduate transfer who will be immediately eligible to play at an FBS school. He will have one year left. Nelson, from Chicago Hales Franciscan, is a grad transfer who will have two seasons of eligibility. Both figure to have quality opportunities.

As a junior, Odenigbo, a Centerville, Ohio, native, started four games at tackle and finished with 29 tackles, which was tied for 11th on the Illini.

On Monday, offensive lineman Gabe Megginson, who started seven games for Illinois in 2016 and four this season, announced he is moving on from the Illini.

Considered the top lineman in Illinois after earning All-State honors at Jacksonville in 2014, Megginson picked Beckman's program over offers from Arkansas, Louisville, Miami, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State.

Megginson will have to sit out the 2018 season unless he goes to the FCS level, where he would be immediately eligible.

"I am considering all schools who contact me as of now because it is so early," said Megginson, who is unlikely to move after the first semester.

Why transfer?

"I just knew leaving would be best for me and my experience playing football," Megginson said. "I know that the program is going in the right direction. I just have to make this move for myself."

Megginson praised the way the Illinois coaching staff reacted to his decision.

"The coaching staff is great and handled it very professionally and made it a peaceful process," Megginson said. "They treated all players fairly, and I know they will get it done soon."

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jjohnson wrote on November 29, 2017 at 10:11 am

These players are handling their departures with a lot of class, especially Megginson. His and Watson's departures, while for different reasons, are very easy to understand, as is Nelson's -- had not realized that he would also be a graduate transfer. 2018 will, I hope, be a better year for the Illini than '17, but I am not going to make the mistake of forecasting a bowl trip as I did for this season.

Still . . . when I was a student, when Whitman was a student , , , when O'Donnell was a student . . .