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DL Isaiah Gay returning to Illinois in 2021

The Illini are keeping part of the D-line in tact.

NCAA Football: Illinois at Penn State Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Bret Bielema continues to build his team from within.

Defensive end Isaiah Gay announced Tuesday he will be returning to Illinois with his extra year of eligibility due to the pandemic.

In a tweet, Gay said: “All I ever wanted was an opportunity coming from a small city... I’m thankful full each obstacle and ready to prove that hard times don’t last.”

Since taking over last month, Bielema has convinced nearly a dozen Illini to return in 2021, preaching family to each one.

Gay hopes to finish off his Illini career with a better year than 2020. He has 85 career tackles, including 11 tackles for loss, and 5.5 sacks. He had a career-high 2.5 sacks in seven games this season.