Three weeks ago, Illinois linebacker T.J. Neal announced that he was transferring for his final year of eligibility. At the time, Neal told Illini coach Bill Cubit that he wanted to play closer to home.

Well, it didn’t exactly work out that way.

Neal will play his final season at Auburn, which he announced on Tuesday.

Neal was not only set to be the top returning linebacker for the Illini, but he was a likely preseason All-B1G pick. He finished second on the team with 109 tackles in 2015.

There was talk that Neal, a Pennsylvania native, would try and transfer to Penn State, which was where former Illini defensive coordinator Tim Banks went at season’s end. But Neal was blocked from transferring to another B1G school.

Illinois will be without six of its seven top tacklers from 2015.

The likes of Tre Watson, James Crawford and Mike Sventina will be the returners at the position while true freshman Dele Harding could crack the rotation, as well.