Redshirt sophomore Robert Griffin III may be one of the most exciting players to see in tonight's Texas Bowl, but he wont likely be leaving for the NFL this year. For several other players, however, this bowl game will be their last chance to demonstrate their skills for NFL scouts in actual competition. With an NFL lockout possibly looming, there is no telling how many juniors will decide to make the jump, but if they do, these are the players you should be looking out for.
Illinois junior running back Mikel Leshoure, according to SB Nation's own Mocking the Draft, will likely be the highest drafted prospect in tonight's Texas Bowl. The Champaign product is currently projected to be drafted early in the second round, as the 43rd overall pick. After a slow start to his college career, Leshoure came on strong at the end of last season with 184 yards against Fresno State and carried that production into this season seamlessly. Leshoure has ran for over 1500 yards in 2010, has eight games where he has ran for 100 yards or more, and ran for 330 yards against Northwestern in Wrigley Field. He is sturdily build at 6'1'' 230 lbs, and has breakaway speed that should raise scouts eyebrows. If nothing else, the recent success of two other Illini running back products, Pierre Thomas and Rashard Mendenhall for the Saints and Steelers respectively, could make scouts look a little longer at this productive back from Illinois.
If RS junior Martez Wilson decides to forgo his final season of college eligibility, there are few who would probably blame him. His rocky career at Illinois has been marked by being attacked in a bar after his sophomore season, and breaking a vertebrae early in the 2009 season. A highly regarded prospect out of high school, Wilson's career looked like it might end up being a disappointment, but the 2010 season marked a return to form as he has become one of the best defensive players the Illini have. If he jumps, Wilson is projected to go in the third round as the 84th overall pick, but given his NFL linebacker build, 6'4", 250 lbs, and high speed, he may decide to stick around another year to try and raise himself up higher on the board.
Another Illini player who may consider jumping after just his junior season is defensive tackle Corey Liuget, currently projected as a fourth round selection as the 104th overall pick. The 6'3" 300 lb defensive tackle from Florida is already the anchor of the Illini defensive line, and his likelihood of jumping to the draft this year could depend on how well he performs for scouts. A solid performance tonight, and perhaps a good work out or two, and Liuget could jump up much higher than the fourth round. However if the lockout gives him concern and if he thinks he could make first or second round money, we could very well see. Liuget back in orange and blue next season.