Illinois punter Blake Hayes announced on Sunday that he was returning for a fifth season of entitlement with the Illinois. Hayes is the Illinois Career Punting Yardage Leader and was the Big Ten Punter of the Year in 2019. The native Australian stepped as No.. 1 authorized designer for ESPN design expert Mel Kiper Jr. .
As a junior, Hayes averaged 44. 6 yards per punt and 32 punts out of 77 within the 20 yard line and 22 punts greater than 50 yards. As a senior, he was an average of 43 years old. 8 yards per punt and 16 punts out of 42 within the 20 yard line and nine punts greater than 50 yards.
Hayes is the seventh senior and has announced that he will return for an extra season to play for new head coach Bret Bielema, who has replaced the recently sacked Lovie Smith. Back are kicker James McCourt, long snapper Ethan Tabel, quarterback Brandon Peters and the offensive linemen Alex Palczewski, Doug Kramer and Vederian Lowe.
So far, five Illinois have signed up for the NFL draft: OL Kendrick Green, WR Josh Imatorbhebhe, LB Jake Hansen, LB Milo Eifler and DB Nate Hobbs. Senior defensive end Owen Carney, a selection from last season’s second All-Big Ten team, has entered the transfer portal.
Hayes has long said he was open to an extra season of fitness. His father Ronan told Illinois Inquirer that his youngest son had more education, especially after his older brother’s Australian soccer career didn’t last as long as he had hoped.
« I think deep down Blake wants a senior year, » said Ronan. « I think that’s in the first place. Blake is pretty academic too, so he can see how he might get on with a master. That is also at the top of his priority list.
« Blake learned a lot (Max’s professional athletic experience) and didn’t put all those eggs in one basket, so to speak. Is that what he is aiming for? Absolutely. But he will literally take it week after week. ”
What it means: Illinois is returning its three core specialists. Hayes, kicker James McCourt and long snapper Ethan Tabel all announced their return to the Illinois, giving Bret Bielema the benefit of a strong special unit in his first season. Hayes should have an NFL chance at some point, but his senior season wasn’t quite as strong as his junior season, so he will have another opportunity to tweak his game and help Illinois win the battle for field position. Illinois has lost many key defenders to the NFL and the transfer portal so far, so Bielema staff will need to reach the transfer portal to be competitive on this side of the ball next season. But Bielema will return an experienced offensive and an outstanding special unit.
What’s next? Illinois is still awaiting decisions from a few key seniors including DT Roderick Perry, DE Isaiah Gay and DB Tony Adams. Illinois has already lost four defensive starters from last season.
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Illinois Fighting Illinois Football, National Football League Draft, Blake Hayes, NFL, Big Ten Conference, Punter, NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, American Football, Bret Bielema
World News – US – Illinois punter Blake Hayes returns for another season
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