CHAMPAIGN — The football news keeps rolling in.
On Friday, tight end Luke Ford, a native of Carterville, announced on Twitter his intent to transfer to the University of Illinois after one year at the University of Georgia. The Illini recruited Ford heavily out of high school.
Ford, who was the state's top-ranked prospect in the Class of 2018 and the No. 3 tight end in the country according to 247Sports, caught one pass for four yards for the Bulldogs.
"I would like to thank the University of Georgia for a great experience," Ford said in a tweet. "I greatly appreciate all the coaches that helped me through this process and made my dream of playing college football a reality.
"I love all my teammates and friends that I met in Athens. Also, I'd like to thank all of the UGA fans for being amazing throughout the year. However, due to my grandparents' deteriorating health and my family's inability to attend to see me play in person each week, I will be transferring to the University of Illinois."
Ford, a 6-foot-6, 252-pounder, played in nine of 13 games for the Bulldogs. He was a four-star recruit out of high school.
He signed his Big Ten Tender of Financial Aid on Tuesday. He will seek immediate eligibility.
"Luke Ford was the top-rated recruit in the state of Illinois his senior year and we worked very hard in developing a great relationship during his recruitment," Illinois head coach Lovie Smith said in a statement. "It's not unusual for athletes wanting to be near home so that family members are close by, and we are extremely happy that Luke felt Illinois was the place for him to attend school and play football after making the decision to transfer.
"He is a very skilled tight end with terrific size and athleticism who can play every down as both a pass catcher and blocker. Luke has an outstanding family and we look forward to them joining our football family. We know Luke is very close to his grandparents and this should allow them much easier access to his games. We will work with Luke and his family in his quest for immediate eligibility with the Fighting Illini."
Ford is the second transfer to announce he's joining the Illini, along with former Miami receiver Jeff Thomas, who announced last month he was leaving the Hurricanes and joining the Illini.
Ford's announcement comes one day after Illinois head coach Lovie Smith landed yet another big recruit in Shammond Cooper out of Trinity Catholic in St. Louis, who gave the team a verbal commitment. The Illini signed 11 during the early signing period, including Cooper's high school teammate, quarterback Isaiah Williams and defensive back Marquez Beason out of Duncanville, Texas.
Ford will likely apply for a waiver to be eligible immediately, and if that is declined, he will have to sit for a season under the NCAA transfer rules.
Daniel Barker, who acted as the team's pass-catching tight end after Louis Dorsey left the program, had nine catches for 84 yards.