Coleman returning for sixth season

Jan. 16—CHAMPAIGN — Illinois was going to have to rework its defensive front ahead of the 2024 season regardless of Seth Coleman's decision about a sixth year of college football. Johnny Newton and Keith Randolph Jr. were always going to need to be replaced.

Some of that work has already been accomplished. Illinois coach Bret Bielema secured transfers Anthony Johnson (Youngstown State) and Enyce Sledge (Auburn) to shore up his defensive line.

Coleman's Tuesday announcement that he would return to Illinois for a final season was another positive turn of events. The 6-foot-5, 245-pound outside linebacker earned honorable mention All-Big Ten status in 2023 — a repeat of his 2022 season — after finishing last year with 50 tackles, nine tackles for loss and six sacks. Coleman's six sacks ranked second in the Big Ten during conference play.

Outside linebacker could be a strength for the 2024 Illinois defense. Coleman returns along with Gabe Jacas and Alec Bryant, and the Illini are working to get Ezekiel Holmes another year of eligibility. Illinois also signed JUCO sacks leader Daniel Brown and has a crop of younger players in the pipeline in Jared Badie, Mason Muragin, Calvin Smith and incoming freshmen JoJo Knight and Joe Barna.