Safety/return man transfers to Illinois

Wisconsin isn't the only Big Ten school that can take advantage of the NCAA's graduate transfer rule.

Illinois announced Monday night that Tommy Davis, a safety and return specialist the past four years at Northern Illinois, has transferred in and will be immediately eligible for the 2012 season. Davis graduated from NIU and will work toward a master's degree at Illinois, much like Russell Wilson and Danny O'Brien did at Wisconsin.

The 5-foot-11, 205-pound Davis could provide an immediate boost to Illinois' special teams, which ranked last in the Big Ten and was one of the worst in the country at both kickoff and punt returns last season. Davis is a two-time All-MAC returner who ranks third in Huskies history in kickoff return yards. He has a career average of 22.9 yards per kick return and 7.5 yards per punt return. First-year Illini coach Tim Beckman saw up close what Davis could do when he returned a kickoff 83 yards for a touchdown against Beckman's Toledo team in 2010.

Davis might also add depth to a secondary that struggled at times last year. He had 111 tackles combined in the past two seasons for Northern Illinois and tied for the MAC lead with four fumble recoveries in 2010. He had 10 tackles in a 28-22 loss to Illinois in September 2010.

Davis' numbers slipped to 38 tackles last year, and he finished second on the team in kickoff returns, though he did lead the Huskies in punt returns.

His father, Tommy Davis Jr., played running back at Iowa State, while his cousin is former NFL receiver Peerless Price.