Former Southern Cal TE Daniel Imatorbhebhe Commits To Illini As A Grad Transfer

Matthew Stevens

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- The quarterbacks at Illinois will now have their choice to throw the football to one of two members of the Imatorbhebhe family.

Former Southern Cal tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe announced on Twitter Wednesday evening he intends on spending the upcoming 2020 season as a graduate transfer at Illinois. Daniel Imatorbhebhe is the older brother of the Illini’s leading returning wide receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe.

Daniel Imatorbhebhe, who played with his younger brother at USC during the 2016, 2017 and 2018 seasons, has suffered through multiple lower body injuries that have kept him from any action in the last two years. The two Imatorbhebhe brothers were only healthy together for one full season (2017) at USC. 

When Daniel Imatorbhebhe was healthy, he was productive as a passing target and run blocker in the Trojans offense. In 22 games, nine of which were starts, during the 2016 and 2017 campaigns, the 6-foot-3, 240-pounder had 25 receptions for 394 yards with four touchdowns including two catches for 25 yards in the 2017 Cotton Bowl loss to Ohio State.

After Daniel Imatorbhebhe received his bachelor’s degree in economic social sciences in the summer of 2018, he is eligible to be an immediately-eligible player on the Illini roster, similarly to his younger brother last year, if/when the 2020 season starts. Illinois will be the third school for Daniel Imatorbhebhe as enrolled early at Florida in the spring of 2015 after graduating a semester early from North Gwinnett (Ga.) High School to participate in 2015 spring practice but would transfer to USC by the following fall semester.

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In his career at Southern California Daniel Imatorbhebhe (88) had 25 receptions for 394 yards with four touchdowns including two catches for 25 yards in this 2017 Cotton Bowl loss to Ohio State.Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports

Daniel Imatorbhebhe will now be part of what is arguably the deepest pool of tight end talent in the Big Ten Conference and possibly all of college football as he will be on the depth chart with Georgia transfer Luke Ford and last year’s starter Daniel Barker.

Ford is a former four-star 2018 prospect from Cartersville, Ill., but was forced to sit out the 2019 season due to NCAA transfer rules after his hardship waiver request was denied by the NCAA Eligibility Center. Barker, a junior-to-be, established himself as the Illini’s primary tight end weapon last season after earning 18 receptions, 273 receiving yards and four touchdowns in 2019.

ILLINI 2019 GRAD TRANSFER STATISTICS

NOTE: * = player arrived at Illinois with two years of eligibility left

QB Brandon Peters * – 1,884 passing yards, 18 touchdown passes, three rushing touchdowns

DL Oluwole Betiku Jr. * – 36 tackles, 13 TFLs, nine sacks, seven QB hurries  two fumble recoveries

WR Josh Imatorbhebhe * – 33 catches, 634 yards, nine touchdowns

LB Milo Eifler * – 63 tackles, 10 TFLs, two sacks, one fumble recovery, one PBU, one touchdown

WR Trevon Sidney * – 16 catches, 123 yards, one touchdown (out for season with injury after 5 games)

OL Richie Petitbon – 12 starts at guard

After transferring from USC, Josh Imatorbhebhe finished last season second in Illinois history in touchdown receptions in a single season (nine), one behind the record of 10 set by David Williams in 1985 and Brandon Lloyd in 2001. Josh Imatorbhebhe, who was named an All-Big Ten honorable mention by the league’s media, finished fifth in the Big Ten Conference and 32nd among all Football Bowl Subdivision schools in receiving touchdowns.

Daniel Imatorbhebhe becomes the eighth transfer commitment to the Illini program this offseason. Illinois, which has become the Power Five Conference version of ‘Transfer Portal U’, has already taken the commitments of wide receivers Brian Hightower (Miami-Fla.), Khamri Thompson (Missouri) and Desmond Dan (New Mexico State), offensive linemen Blake Jeresaty (Wofford) and Brevyn Jones (Mississippi State), safety TreSean Smith (Louisville) and defensive lineman Chinedu Udeogu (California). These seven players does not include former Wisconsin defensive end/linebacker Christian Bell decided to rescind his verbal pledge to transfer to Illinois and will play his final year of college football near his hometown with South Alabama.

“Is divorce a part of our lives and our world? Yes, it is. Sometimes divorce is a good thing,” Illinois head coach Lovie Smith said in February about being active in recruiting the transfer market. “And then both parties can benefit from it. There’s a certain type of guy we’re interested in but for the most part, these (transfer) guys have demonstrated they’re serious students and they’re looking for something we can give them.”

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