Illinois Turns Into 'Transfer Portal U,' Taking Ex-Husky and others

Milo Eifler's move from Washington to the Illini wasn't so surprising after all. It was all about relationships. He had a deeper one with Illinois.
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Following spring practice in 2018, linebacker Milo Eifler announced he was leaving Washington without really explaining why.

Once a four-star recruit, Eifler wound up at Illinois, a destination likely known to him all along. 

As Sports Illustrated's Matt Stevens for IlliNow details in this well-researched story, Illinois under coach Lovie Smith has become "Transfer Portal U." 

The former Chicago Bears coach has built his college program using someone else's players, developing relationships with guys who felt, excuse the pun, un-Loved elsewhere. In the case of Eifler, Smith came away with a starting linebacker and one of his leading tacklers for 2019. 

Eifler appeared to come out of UW spring practice disenchanted with his role -- as a third-string outside linebacker behind fellow sophomore Amandre Williams and Myles Rice.

An Oakland native, Eifler had been talked into playing football for the first time as a sophomore at Bishop O'Dowd High School. Former California and NFL linebacker Hardy Nickerson Sr. was the coach there -- until leaving for Illinois, where he coached until resigning in 2018 for health concerns.

Hardy not only welcomed Eifler to the Big Ten school, he no doubt had a hand in his son, linebacker Hardy Nickerson Jr., leaving California for Illinois.

Eifler intimated it was coaching relationships that caused him to leave one place and turn up at the other. One program saw a slow-developing player; the other spotted a linebacker it could use right away.

"I've got ties back there," Eifler said of Washington. "It's not like I'm going to hate on them. We went different paths. That's a great program. I still care for my teammates."

Eifler, who finished playing at O'Dowd for former Husky running back Napoleon Kaufman following Dickerson's departure, appeared in all 13 games for Washington in 2017, mostly playing on special teams. He finished with six tackles.

He was known as Carmilo in Seattle and shortened it to Milo once in Champagne, going for a full makeover. He is just one example of Illinois rebuilding its program by establishing relationships that run deep with transfers. 

In Stevens' IlliNow story, he tells how "Sometimes Divorce is a Good Thing." Eifler, who has one season of eligibility remaining, is just one example. He seems to be thriving in his new football marriage.