Illinois' Wilson will apply for NFL draft; Leshoure next?

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Illinois middle linebacker Martez Wilson will apply for the NFL draft. Whether or not running back Mikel Leshoure joins him will be settled soon enough.

Wilson has decided to skip his senior season and has filed paperwork to enter the April NFL draft, Illinois sports information director Kent Brown confirmed Monday.

Leshoure, the talented junior running back, said Monday he'll announce Tuesday morning whether or not he'll stick around for his senior season. The news release announcing the news conference at his old high school, Centennial in Champaign, didn't indicate how he's leaning.

Wilson said in a printed statement Monday that he decided to leave because he has reached one of his key goals -- winning a bowl game -- and in May is expected to reach another, getting a college degree.

"After weighing all my options, I've decided it was time to pursue my next goal and take my game to the next level," Wilson said.

Illinois head coach Ron Zook, who recruited Wilson from Chicago Simeon High School, wished him well.

"I know the NFL has been Martez's goal and dream for many years, and I'm very proud and happy he'll have the opportunity to make that a reality," Zook said in the same release.

Leshoure didn't respond to a telephone message from The Associated Press.

Leshoure had 1,697 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns in 2010, breaking Rashard Mendenhall's Illinois single-season record for rushing yards.

Mendenhall was the last Illini back to leave school early, passing up his senior season and getting drafted in 2008's first round by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Wilson led Illinois with 112 tackles this season. He also had four sacks and an interception in the kind of season that Illinois has been waiting for since he came to Champaign in 2007.

Wilson chose Illinois over Ohio State, Notre Dame and other schools. But he struggled to live up to that promise until the 2010 season, partly because of injuries.

The 6-4, 250-pound Wilson sat out most of the 2009 season after having surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck. He also was stabbed before that season while reportedly helping a former teammate during a fight outside a bar.

Defensive lineman Corey Liuget hasn't decided whether or not to return for his senior season, Brown said. Liuget is a 6-3, 300-pound tackle from Miami. He had 63 tackles and 4.5 sacks in 2010 and won regular praise from opposing coaches for his ability to disrupt an offense.

The draft is April 28-30.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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