CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — While Mike Epstein was back home in Florida debating his future, new head coach Bret Bielema was there every step of the way, even though they didn’t get to speak in person.
“While being at home, I only had time to conversate with him over the phone,” says Epstein. “It just seemed like without being face-to-face, he really just respected any of the decisions I was going to make.”
Epstein decided in June to return for his fifth season with the Illini, making him the 22nd Super-Senior on the team. The Ft. Lauderdale native is coming off his healthiest year where he rushed for 367 yards and had a career high four touchdowns. But in a crowded backfield, he’s ready for any role this season.
“Genuinely want to do whatever I can to help this team, says Epstein. “If that’s carrying ten times a game, fifteen times a game, twenty times a game, it doesn’t matter to me. I want to see wins, like we all want to see wins.”
“Mike Epstein going to be Mike Epstein, he’s going to go to work,” says running backs coach Cory Patterson. “And he’s proven that since he’s been back. That’s all we want him to do, come in and work and we’ll figure everything else out when it’s time.”
Chase Brown joins Epstein for another season in the running back room, along with transfer Chase Hayden and second year back Reggie Love. It makes for a dangerous looking group on paper.
“Not only the talent but the people we have in the group,” says Epstein. “They just seem like genuine, down-to-Earth people. I’m just glad and excited to work with them. I think this could be one of the best running back rooms I’ve ever been a part of.”
With Bielema’s fondness for the running game, Epstein says he’s ready to seal his Illini career on a high note.