Illinois makes Ford's transfer official

Illinois makes Ford's transfer official

It's official: Last year's top-ranked prospect in the state of Illinois is coming home.

Tight end Luke Ford, the consensus No. 1 in-state prospect in 2018, signed a Big Ten Tender of Financial Aid and plans to enroll for classes at Illinois this spring, head coach Lovie Smith announced Tuesday afternoon.

Ford will seek immediate eligibility and request a waiver from the NCAA's rule requiring athletes who transfer to sit out a year before playing at their new school — same as recent Miami transfer Jeff Thomas.

The 6-foot-6, 252-pound Ford will have three years of eligibility remaining after spending his freshman season at Georgia. He made one catch for four yards in nine games for the Bulldogs and was on the sidelines for their 28-21 loss to Texas in the Sugar Bowl on New Years Day.

"Luke Ford was the top-rated recruit in the state of Illinois his senior year and we worked very hard in developing a great relationship during his recruitment," Smith said in a statement. "It's not unusual for athletes wanting to be near home so that family members are close by, and we are extremely happy that Luke felt Illinois was the place for him to attend school and play football after making his decision to transfer.

"We will work with Luke and his family in his quest for immediate eligibility with the Fighting Illini."

Ford elected to transfer closer to his hometown of Carterville to be near his family, including his sick grandfather, according to the Twitter note he posted last Friday night when he announced his intention to transfer to Illinois.