IU football seniors announce intention to return for 2021 season

“The best is yet to come” was the slogan as a handful of Indiana football seniors announced via social media Tuesday their intention to return for the 2021 season.

The initial list includes three defensive players, defensive end Mike Ziemba, husky Marcelino Ball, and defensive back Raheem Layne. On the offensive side of the ball, tight end Kham Taylor and offensive guard Mackenzie Nworah intend to return in 2021.

These seniors are able to return because the NCAA extended an additional year of eligibility to all fall athletes, just like winter and spring athletes whose 2020 seasons were also impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Seniors who return for 2021 will not count toward the team’s roster limit.

The returns on the defensive side are significant. Ball, a 6-foot, 220-pound safety/linebacker, injured his ACL in fall camp and missed the entire 2020 season, but he has been an explosive athlete at an important position in IU’s 4-2-5 scheme. His return for a sixth year potentially bolsters an already experienced defense that led the nation in interceptions and the Big Ten in sacks.

Ziemba, a fourth-year senior, has been a productive player at the Hoosiers’ “bull” defensive end position, and he will help strengthen depth at that spot for another year.

The same goes with Layne, who, like Taylor and Ball, also missed the 2020 season to injury. He was cross-training at both the corner and safety positions and will give the Hoosiers another veteran in the secondary.

Layne was suited up for the Hoosiers’ warmups at the Outback Bowl but was not active for the game.

Nworah is another fifth-year player who started at guard this season, rotating with Dylan Powell and Mike Katic on the interior. Taylor, a grad transfer from South Alabama, wasn’t able to suit up in 2020 because of injury, but he’ll give it another try in 2021.

As of Wednesday morning, announcements were still outstanding from several other seniors, including offensive lineman Harry Crider, defensive tackle Jerome Johnson, and wide receivers Ty Fryfogle and Whop Philyor.

Kickoff specialist Jared Smolar also announced Wednesday afternoon that he’s returning for 2021.


  1. The early news on returning players is very good for IU. We will have to wait and see how it all shakes out for the 2021 season.

  2. IU FB’s 13 players who normally would have exhausted their eligibility but can return under the NCAA’s special extension. Here are my predictions. As for the one’s that have already announced, I predicted they would return.

    Jovan Swann (maybe)
    Kham Taylor (yes, confirmed)
    Haydon Whitehead (No)
    Marcelino Ball (DB) (yes, confirmed)
    Mackenzie Nworah (50/50)
    Dylan Powell (50/50)
    Jared Smolar (Not likely)
    Jerome Johnson (No, he’ll go NFL)
    Raheem Layne (yes, confirmed)
    Whop Philyor (No, he’ll try NFL)
    Ty Fryfogle (No, he’ll go NFL)
    Harry Crider (No, he’ll go NFL)
    Michael Ziemba (yes, confirmed)

    I still think IU will lose Scott to the NFL. He’s been effective for three seasons and his size, power and pass-blocking ability will be coveted by NFL teams.

  3. Hope I’m wrong about Scott and Philyor, but the risk of an injury that could eliminate their chance to play in the NFL may override their love for the team and for TA.

  4. Wow, Nworah and Smolar have also announced their return for another season. That’s six out of 13 so far! IU is going to have great depth on the offensive line.

    Two IU players entered the transfer portal; one was the walk-on kicker who has already graduated and the other one has not gotten much playing time over the last three seasons. So far, this appears to be working out very well for IU. Now we wait for Crider, Fryfogle, Philyor and Johnson, all of which are probably seeking evaluations from NFL insiders.

  5. Powell has announced he is coming back in 2021. If OSU’s Fields leaves can we now dream of being B1G champions in 2021. There very good RB [Sermon] is likely to leave along with a number of starters. Can IU build on this season to have a good chance at the B1G championship? 2021 is looking better and better as we find out more of the players are coming back.

  6. Speaking of the B1G. Ohio State having the Covid problem, apparently getting close to not having enough healthy for the next game. The B1G is advocating game delay of a week. Might as well rename the Conference …. “Ohio State’s B1G and Some Other Teams”…?

  7. OSU has been investing in their FB program for decades, and they have the stadium capacity, donors and cash necessary to spend what is necessary to stay on top. It helps being the only Power-five conference FB school in a state with almost 12 million people, but they also recruit nationally. But what really separated them from other Big Ten programs, and many other Power-five conference schools, was the way they transitioned leadership from Urban Meyer to Ryan Day. They utilized excellent succession planning. Most schools don’t have the vision or foresight to do that, and that’s why FB programs like FSU, Florida, Texas, USC, etc. all declined after losing successful head coaches. Oklahoma did a good job of managing a coaching turnover, but they’re not quite the program OSU is right now.

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