The Illinois defense lost one of its returning starters from 2013 this week, as rising senior Houston Bates has decided to transfer closer to his home of Covington, La. to finish his college career.

Bates started all 12 games at the LEO position (linebacker/end option) for the Illini in 2013. He will graduate in May with a degree in community health, making him eligible to play in 2014 once he signs with another program.

"Houston is a terrific and bright young man, who was a great teammate on our football team," Illinois coach Tim Beckman said. "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. We wish him nothing but the best as he moves on in his career."

Bates ranked eighth on the team in tackles (40), second in tackles for loss (12) and second in sacks (3.5) last season. His split from Illinois appears to be amicable, but the departure is a setback for an Illini defense that needs every advantage it can get after allowing 6.66 yards per play last season (No. 11 in the Big Ten, No. 115 in FBS).