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Linebacker Hart to return for Illini’s 2023 season | Sports

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CHAMPAIGN — The Illinois football defense received yet another piece of good news Tuesday, following plenty of it the day prior.

Linebacker Calvin Hart Jr. is returning for the Illini’s 2023 season, which will be his third in Champaign-Urbana and his sixth college football campaign overall.

The 6-foot-1, 230-pound native of Florida is the third defensive player to announce this week that he’s remaining with coach Bret Bielema’s program for the upcoming season. Defensive linemen Johnny Newton and Keith Randolph Jr. each did the same on Monday.

Hart is a former North Carolina State transfer who played in 12 of the Illini’s 13 games during the 2022 schedule, including the ReliaQuest Bowl versus Mississippi State. Hart amassed 22 tackles, 1 1/2 tackles for loss and 1/2 sack after being named to the preseason watch list for the Dick Butkus Award, given annually to the nation’s top linebacker.

Colin Likas is the preps coordinator at The News-Gazette. He can be reached at [email protected], or on Twitter at @clikasNG.

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