CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Illinois head football coach Bret Bielema confirmed on Friday that running back Mike Epstein was returning for a fifth season with Illinois. Epstein had been dealing with several injuries throughout his career, leaving his status up in the air. The fifth year senior had surgery this offseason, and wasn’t on campus for spring ball.
“Even though he’s been here and been a part of what his career is been, I told him coming in he’s going to be at the same level as every incoming freshman or transfer player,” says Bielema. “There’s a number of running backs in spring ball that did a lot of good things, he’ll start behind them, but couldn’t be more excited, he’s a tremendous person, and everything’s been a great situation so far, but obviously I haven’t been able to work out with him yet.”
The running back room is already quite deep, with returning starter Chase Brown and Arkansas transfer Chase Hayden. The unit also has redshirt freshman Reggie Love, who showed some flashes last season.
Epstein is coming off the heels of an All-Big Ten Honorable Mention season, where we led the backfield with four touchdowns. His 367 rushing yards were the second-most on the team, behind Brown who had 540 yards, including three touchdowns.