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Syracuse football: DT McKinley Williams will return to Orange for 2021

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A huge relief for the defensive line.

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Clemson Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

With an extra year of eligibility available for all seniors without scholarship penalty, we’ve been hearing plenty of news around who is and isn’t returning for the Syracuse Orange football team. On Monday evening, we got one more piece of news there — and it’s among the most impactful yet.

Syracuse Athletic Director John Wildhack told Brent Axe that redshirt senior McKinley Williams will be coming back for the 2021 season.

Williams, also known as “Bear,” was moved to nose tackle in new defensive coordinator Tony White’s 3-3-5 scheme, taking on the less glamorous responsibility of holding down the center of the line. Playing in all 11 games, Bear racked up 35 tackles, 8 for a loss with one sack. He appeared in all 12 games his freshman through junior seasons, but only appeared in three games in 2019 due to a preseason foot injury, allowing him to take a redshirt year and return in 2020.

You probably remember this feat of strength from this viral video Coach Dino Babers posted a few years ago.

Without much in the way of experienced depth at defensive tackle (it’s largely just McKinley and end Josh Black), it’s a relief to get Williams back for another season as we develop the young talent across the line. And while we’re still potentially looking for transfers on the line, having at least three of last year’s top four in the position group back (still don’t know about Cody Roscoe) should be a positive development.

There are still a handful of seniors left to announce their decisions, but hopefully we know those decisions soon. In the meantime, the Syracuse coaching staff seems to be planning for the future as well. Having veterans back — whether they’re starters or not — can’t hurt this team given what transpired in 2020.