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The News-Gazette: Mike Epstein returning for 2021 season

The tailback is returning for his fifth season.

NCAA Football: Purdue at Illinois Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Bret Bielema just gained a boost in the backfield as veteran tailback Mike Epstein plans to return for his fifth season with the Illini, according to Bob Asmussen of The News-Gazette.

The News-Gazette reported Epstein, 22, is flying back to Champaign from his south Florida home this weekend.

Illinois already has several running backs on the roster for next season, including Chase Brown, Jakari Norwood, Reggie Love and East Carolina transfer Chase Hayden. But nobody has been as explosive in spurts than Epstein, who has battled a handful of injuries since joining the Illini in 2017.

Despite the shortened COVID season, the 2020 campaign was one of Epstein’s best, as he was on the field for seven contests, including three starts. He finished the season with 367 rushing yards on 69 carries and four touchdowns.