Hamilton Journal News

Extra year

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created SP+, said there will be more returning production across college football in 2021 than in any year since he started tracking it in 2014.

Connelly said on The AP Top 25 College Football Podcast the typical national average for returning production among FBS teams is about 62% per team. As rosters continue to come together, with transfers still finding homes for next season, the national average for returning production has already topped 70% per team.

“Everybody’s like eight to 10 (percentage points) higher because they’re returning more seniors, because all the seniors got a chance at an extra year of eligibilit­y,” Connelly said.

Normally, the top teams in returning production will be around 87%, Connelly said. Currently, three teams are expected to have more than 90% of their production from 2020 back in 2021.

Leading the way was Louisiana-Lafayette at 96%. UCLA and Miami were both at 91%. Lafayette (Levi Lewis) and Miami (D’Eriq King) have quarterbac­ks who will be super seniors.

As of this past weekend, Illinois expects to have 17 scholarshi­p super seniors, the most of any Power Five school.

“What I wouldn’t give to be able to play another season in Memorial Stadium, packed to the brim with 60,000 Fighting Illini. That’s all I want right now,” said tackle Alex Palczewski, one of three returning starters along the offensive line for the Illini who will be super seniors.

For a program that hasn’t had a winning record since 2011 and made the postseason just twice in that time, the hope is Palczewski, fellow linemen Doug Kramer and Vederian Lowe and the super senior class will power a long awaited breakthrou­gh in Champaign.

Athletic director Josh Whitman said bringing back the super seniors will cost Illinois an extra $500,000, mostly in additional financial aid. The Illini expect to have about 92 scholarshi­p players this season.

“As we looked at it, the chance to capitalize on their return and really continue our progress on the football field was really a cost well worth it given what we think the upside of that will be,” Whitman said.

The NCAA ruled super seniors will not count next season toward the Bowl Subdivisio­n

cap of 85 scholarshi­p players per team. As of now, athletes using their COVID-19 year of eligibilit­y after 202122 will count toward scholarshi­p and roster limits in all NCAA sports.

Texas Tech coach Matt Wells said his plan for success in Lubbock has been “get old and stay old.”

Wells is looking to his super seniors to play a major part in turnaround season after the Red Raiders went 8-14 his first two years in the Big 12.

Texas Tech has seven returning starters among 10 super seniors, including defensive back Eric Monroe and linebacker Colin Schooler. Those two arrived as transfers late last summer and were thrown into action with little time to prepare.

“The super seniors coming back are absolutely part of that formula for building this program where we are at right now,” Well said. “That leadership ... it’s hard to gain through a young player.”

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