WKU top linebacker McCollum decides to transfer

Vanderbilt University running back Ralph Webb (7) is tackled by WKU junior linebacker T.J. McCollum (6) during the Hilltoppers game against Vanderbilt on Saturday Sept. 24, 2016 at L.T. Smith Stadium. McCollum transferred to Pordue where former Hilltopper Head Coach Jeff Brohm recently took the head coaching position.

Tyler Mansfield

One of WKU’s top defensive players, redshirt senior linebacker T.J. McCollum, has decided to transfer from the program in his final year of eligibility.

The program announced last Thursday that McCollum requested and was granted his release to transfer from WKU. He received his undergraduate degree from the school back in December.

McCollum, a 6-3, 240-pound native of Birmingham, Alabama, played the 2014 season as a redshirt freshman at Alabama Birmingham before transferring to WKU when the UAB program was terminated.

As he is leaving Bowling Green as a graduate transfer, McCollum is eligible to play immediately at another FBS school in 2017 for his final season of eligibility. However, there are restrictions on where the linebacker can transfer.

Despite being a graduate transfer, McCollum won’t be permitted to move on to any Conference USA school or any opponents on WKU’s 2017 non-conference schedule, which includes Eastern Kentucky, Illinois, Ball State and Vanderbilt.

One school that isn’t on the Toppers’ schedule is Purdue, where former WKU Head Coach Jeff Brohm moved to in December.

According to a tweet that has since been deleted, McCollum could transfer to the Boilermakers’ program. Sean Talsma, one of McCollum’s former high school coaches at Clay-Chalkville High, posted a photo with McCollum saying that he is going to Purdue, but nothing has been made official by the school.

McCollum has been one of the most experienced and productive members on the defensive side of the ball for WKU since joining the Toppers under former Head Coach Brohm in 2015. During his time on the Hill, McCollum started 26 games.

As a redshirt sophomore in 2015, McCollum started in all 14 games for WKU and led the Toppers with 106 tackles, 69 of which were solo, and 11.5 tackles for loss for 30 yards in a campaign in which he was named a C-USA Honorable Mention selection.

As a redshirt junior in 2016, McCollum ranked third in tackles with 85, 45 solo, and seventh in tackles for loss with four. As one of three defensive captains for the past season, he recorded a forced fumble and defended three passes. McCollum missed three of WKU’s 14 games this past year, including the Boca Raton Bowl, with multiple injuries.

With McCollum now headed elsewhere, WKU and new Head Coach Mike Sanford now have seven returning players and two newcomers at the linebacker position. Sophomores Demetrius Cane, Tyler Obee and Drew O’Bryan, redshirt sophomores Canon Jackson and Jarrett Sippola and redshirt juniors Joel Iyiegbuniwe and Masai Whyte all return while freshmen Kyle Bailey and Juwan Jones join the program after signing their National Letters of Intent last Wednesday.

Reporter Tyler Mansfield can be reached at 270-935-0007 and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @RealTMansfield.