Illinois starting defensive end Houston Bates is leaving, hoping to find a school closer to his home in Louisiana for his final season.
In a statement released Friday, the Covington, La., native thanked the school and coaches and said he will graduate this May with a degree in community health. Because he will have his degree he'll be able to play right away when he transfers.
"I wish everyone in the Fighting Illini program nothing but the best," Bates said. "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."
Coach Tim Beckman said 6-3, 250-pound Bates had been a good member of the team while lining up at what Illinois calls a LEO, a hybrid position that includes both defensive end and linebacker responsibilities.
"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," Beckman said. "We wish him nothing but the best as he moves on in his career."
Bates started all 12 games during last fall's 4-8 season. He was eighth on the team with 40 tackles but also had 12 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.
Bates' departure leaves two players on the roster at his position.
DeJazz Woods played in 12 games last fall as a redshirt junior and had 17 tackles. The 6-3, 255-pounder is from Tampa, Fla. Dawuane Smooth, a 6-3, 250-pound player from Groveport, Ohio, had eight tackles in seven games last fall as a freshman.