Starting linebacker T.J. Neal is transferring away from the Illinois football program, per a Tuesday report.
The Champaign News-Gazette's Bob Asmussen reported that Neal is leaving the program and will seek a transfer, with head football coach Bill Cubit saying that Neal wants to play closer to home in Pennsylvania.
“He’s graduating, and he was talking about playing closer to home,” Cubit told Asmussen. “That’s what he’s going to do. He’s a good kid, and I respect his feelings about what he wants to do. I wish him all the luck.”
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Neal ranked second on the team last season with 109 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and a pair of sacks. He started in each of the past two seasons and has 245 career tackles.
The Illinois defense will have a very different look to it for the 2016 season. Neal's departure means that the Illini will be without six of the team's top seven tacklers from 2015.
The news of Neal's transfer comes after a Monday-night report that seven backup players including wide receiver Marchie Murdock are also set to transfer out of the program.