Newton Named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year


Newton Named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – November 04, 2023 – Illinois Defensive Tackle Jer’Zhan “Johnny” Newton (#4) during the game between the Illinois Fighting Illini and the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Huntington Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, MN. Photo By Patrick Pierson

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Illinois defensive tackle Jer’Zhan Newton was named the Nagurski-Woodson Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and the Smith-Brown Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year, the Big Ten Conference announced Tuesday. Newton is the fourth Illini in history to earn the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year award, joining Dana Howard (1993, 1994), Darrick Brownlow (1990), and Moe Gardner (1990).


One of the most disruptive players in the nation, Newton led Power-5 defensive tackles in quarterback pressures for the second straight season in 2023, according to PFF. His 44 pressures this season leads all Big Ten defensive tackles by 15, and he also led Big Ten defensive tackles in sacks with 7.5, which ranked second overall in the conference. Over the last two seasons, Newton has totaled 103 quarterback pressures, by far the most in the nation among defensive tackles.


Newton was the most durable defensive tackle in the nation this season. He led all defensive tackles in the nation with 749 snaps (62.4 per game), 73 more than the next closest Power-5 defensive tackle and 124 more than any other Big Ten interior defender.


Newton has also made an impact on special teams, leading the nation with an Illinois-record four blocked kicks. All four of Newton’s blocks have come in Big Ten games: a field goal vs. Penn State (9/16/23), an extra point at Purdue (9/30/23), an extra point vs. Indiana (11/11/23), and a field goal at Iowa (11/18/23).


Two of Newton’s biggest games came against two of Illinois’ best opponents. He had seven pressures against Wisconsin, the fourth-most by any defensive tackle in the nation this season, and six pressures against #7 Penn State in Illinois’ Big Ten opener. Newton was the highest-rated Power-5 defensive tackle in the nation during Week 3 vs. Penn State and Week 8 vs. Wisconsin (minimum 30 snaps), according to PFF. His 94.3 grade against Wisconsin was the highest by a Big Ten defender since 2019.


For the season, Newton totaled 52 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, nine quarterback hurries, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, and four blocked kicks. In his four-year Illinois career, Newton had 188 tackles, 28.5 tackles for loss, and 18.0 sacks, which tied College Football Hall of Famer Moe Gardner for the most sacks by an Illinois defensive tackle in program history.


The Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year award is named in honor of Minnesota’s Bronko Nagurski and Michigan’s Charles Woodson.

All-Big Ten Awards – Defense and Special Teams

DL Keith Randolph Jr., All-Big Ten Third Team (media) and All-Big Ten Honorable Mention (coaches)
Randolph totaled 49 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks in 10 games to earn All-Big Ten honors for the third time in his career. Randolph’s 4.9 tackles per game ranked in the top five in the nation among defensive tackles. Randolph was a third-team pick by the media and earned honorable mention status from the league’s coaches.


DB Xavier Scott, All-Big Ten Honorable Mention (coaches and media)
Scott led the Big Ten in pass breakups (11) and tied for the conference lead in passes defended (14). His 10 passes defended during Big Ten games ranked second in the league.


LB Dylan Rosiek, All-Big Ten Honorable Mention (coaches and media)
Rosiek led the Big Ten and tied for third in the nation in forced fumbles with four, tied for the fourth-most in Illinois single-season history. Rosiek’s 82 tackles led the team and ranked 14th in the Big Ten.


OLB Seth Coleman, All-Big Ten Honorable Mention (coaches and media)
Coleman tied for second in the Big Ten in sacks during conference games (6.0) and ranked seventh in TFLs during Big Ten games (8.0). His 6.0 sacks during road games tied for the most by a Power-5 player during the regular season.


Caleb Griffin, All-Big Ten Honorable Mention (coaches and media)
Griffin was the first kicker in Illinois history to have two game-winning field goals (final minute) in a single season. He hit game-winners against Maryland and Toledo, while going 14-for-19 (73.7%) on field goals. He was 13-for-15 on field goals inside of 50 yards.


Hugh Robertson, All-Big Ten Honorable Mention (media)
Robertson averaged 42.7 yards per punt, a 2.7-yard improvement from last season. He landed 17 punts inside the 20-yard line and had just three touchbacks.


RS Isaiah Williams, All-Big Ten Honorable Mention (coaches and media)
Williams averaged 11.6 yards per punt return, tied for the second-best average in the Big Ten. Williams’ offensive Big Ten honors will be announced Wednesday.




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