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Five Illini announce they are transferring

Illinois+linebacker+Tr%C3%A9+Watson+makes+a+tackle+during+the+game+against+Michigan+State+at+Memorial+Stadium+on+Nov.+5%2C+2016.+Watson+is+one+of+the+five+players+who+are+transferring+next+season.
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Five Illini announce they are transferring

Illinois linebacker Tré Watson makes a tackle during the game against Michigan State at Memorial Stadium on Nov. 5, 2016. Watson is one of the five players who are transferring next season.

Illinois linebacker Tré Watson makes a tackle during the game against Michigan State at Memorial Stadium on Nov. 5, 2016. Watson is one of the five players who are transferring next season.

Austin Yattoni

Illinois linebacker Tré Watson makes a tackle during the game against Michigan State at Memorial Stadium on Nov. 5, 2016. Watson is one of the five players who are transferring next season.

Austin Yattoni

Austin Yattoni

Illinois linebacker Tré Watson makes a tackle during the game against Michigan State at Memorial Stadium on Nov. 5, 2016. Watson is one of the five players who are transferring next season.

By Mike Gasick, Staff writer

Junior Tré Watson, sophomore Gabe Megginson and three others announced they will not be returning to the Illini next season.

The two players tweeted their decisions, both expressing respect and gratitude toward the coaching staff and University.

Megginson was a former four-star recruit who did not receive much playing time last season, starting in only two games.

The redshirt started seven games in his freshman season, but did not maintain the consistency the coaching staff was hoping for.

Freshmen Vederian Lowe, Larry Boyd and Alex Palczewski all received starting roles on the line during the season.

Megginson will be eligible to play at an FCS school next season but would have to sit out if he transfers to an FBS school, per NCAA transfer rules.

“Through all of the hard times, I have always been proud to be (a part) of this team,” Megginson said in his Twitter announcement. “I told myself that the moment I was not all in for this program, I need to leave.”

Watson played in nine games last season, compiling 65 tackles. He will be immediately eligible to play next season, per NCAA graduate-transfer rules.

The linebacker played in 34 career games for the Illini, recording 188 total tackles and 10 tackles for loss.

Watson underwent knee surgery in October and had to miss three games.

The Florida native experienced three different head coaches and two athletic directors during his time at Illinois.

“To say there’s been turmoil is an incredible understatement,” Watson said in his Twitter announcement. “And yet I cherish every moment of my (three-and-a-half) incredible years at this university for all they have brought me.”

Walk-on freshman punter Bryce Baringer also announced via Twitter that he will not return next season.

“I am truly humbled and blessed to have been (a part) of this team, but it is time to move on,” Baringer said.

Freshman punter Blake Hayes, who started every game this season, was recently named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team.

Sophomore defensive back Patrick Nelson will transfer from Illinois. He has two years of eligibility remaining after playing two years with the Illini.

Nelson finishes his Illinois career with 140 total tackles in 22 games played. He was a three-star recruit out of Hales Franciscan High School in Chicago. He was forced to miss the 2015 season after tearing his ACL in summer practice.

Freshman Bennett Williams and sophomore Stanley Green will likely fill Nelson’s void in the Illini secondary next season.

Dawson DeGroot and Harvey Clayton Jr., both freshmen, may also be in the mix to find playing time next year.

Jartavius Martin is a three-star safety from Florida who committed to the Illini in July. He could also help defensive coordinator Hardy Nickerson’s unit.

This morning, defensive tackle Tito Odenigbo also announced his intent to transfer to play out his remaining year of eligibility. The redshirt junior started 10 games for the Illini and was tied for second in tackles for loss (4.5). He also blocked a field goal attempt in Illinois’ blowout defeat at South Florida earlier this year.

@mike_mgasick

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