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CHAMPAIGN — Less than an hour after new Illinois defensive line coach Terrance Jamison introduced himself to local media, his position group secured a key presence for the 2021 season.

Isaiah Gay announced via Twitter on Tuesday afternoon that he’ll return to the Illini for another season. Gay is taking advantage of an extra year of eligibility afforded by the NCAA in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“All I ever wanted was an opportunity coming from a small city,” Gay wrote, including the hashtag “Dis4uLilSis” with his message. “These last four years have been nothing but love here at Illinois. I’m also thankful for each obstacle and ready to prove that hard times don’t last.”

Gay, a native of Nashville, N.C., played in 39 games during the first four seasons of his Illinois career. The 6-foot-3, 240-pound senior defensive end produced 19 tackles, three tackles for loss, 2 1/2 sacks, one fumble recovery and two pass breakups in seven games during the 2020 campaign, and his collegiate stat line includes 96 tackles, 11 1/2 tackles for loss, 5 1/2 sacks, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.

Gay joins fellow senior Jamal Woods in returning on the Illini defensive line for the 2021 season. Roderick Perry II has yet to make his eligibility decision for the position group, while Owen Carney Jr. entered the transfer portal last month.

Colin Likas covers Illinois football and high school sports at The News-Gazette. He can be reached at clikas@news-gazette.com.

College/Prep Sports Reporter

Colin Likas covers Illinois football and high school sports at The News-Gazette. His email is clikas@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@clikasNG).

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