The University of Illinois' Mikel LeShoure announced today that he'll be joining Alabama's Mark Ingram, Virginia Tech's Ryan Williams, and Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers, among many others as underclassmen running backs heading early to the NFL.
LeShoure is the 11th underclassmen running back to declare early so far. He'll compete with former Hokies' star Williams to be the second running back drafted after Ingram, the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner.
So far, the running backs who have declared early include: Wisconsin's John Clay, Virginia Tech's Darren Evans, Ingram, Clemson's Jamie Harper, Pitt fullbakc Henry Hynoski, LeShoure, Pitt's Dion Lewis, Rodgers, Connecticut's Jordan Todman, Cal's Shane Vereen and Williams.
The early defections are hardly a surprise. While scouts generally encourage prospects to return for their senior seasons, there is an understanding that for running backs the same rules don't apply due to the fact that they absorb so much punishment.
Scouts also aren't surprised by the early defections because this year's senior class of running backs is one of the weakest positional groups in the country. In speaking to scouts over the past few weeks, only a trio of Big 12 runners -- Oklahoma's DeMarco Murray, Kansas State's Daniel Thomas and Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter were characterized as "possible" Top 64 picks. None were viewed as "locks" for the first two rounds.
LeShoure is coming off a spectacular junior season in which he rushed for a school record 1,687 rushing yards and 17 TDs. He was at his best in Illinois' Texas Bowl victory over Baylor, rushing for a Texas Bowl record 187 yards and three touchdowns, earning MVP accolades.
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