Welcome back! After declaring for NFL Draft, Illinois starting LB reverses course to return for 2021 season
Illinois defense just got another major boost.
On Monday, linebacker Jake Hansen made a surprise announcement in a Twitter video, saying he will return to the Fighting Illini for the 2021 season. He had previously declared for the upcoming NFL Draft, but said he had a change of heart after conversations with new head coach Bret Bielema and the Illinois staff.
Hansen received a waiver from the NCAA to return to Champaign for the 2021 season after his declaration. Below is the video shared by the program on Monday:
— Illinois Football (@IlliniFootball) March 1, 2021
Hansen ended the 2020 season as Illinois’ top tackler, recording 68 total stops, including 10 for loss and 2.5 sacks in 8 games for the Illini. He was also credited with 4 pass break-ups, 2 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries.
Over the last three seasons, Hansen has been a major contributor on the defensive side of the football. He’s piled up 243 tackles, 26 for loss, 10 forced fumbles, 7 sacks, 6 fumble recoveries, 6 pass break-ups and 3 interceptions.
Illinois ended the 2020 season with a 2-6 mark in the fifth year under Lovie Smith. Athletic director Josh Whitman made a change at the top before the Illini’s season finale against Penn State in Week 9.
Bielema has done a great job getting players from the 2020 team to return, and Hansen’s decision to reverse course is a significant boost for the defense.