CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Illinois defensive tackle Jer’Zhan “Johnny” Newton has been named one of 20 semifinalists for the Chuck Bednarik Award for the second consecutive year, the Maxwell Football Club announced Monday. The Bednarik Award is presented annually to the best defensive player in college football.
Newton has totaled 42 tackles, 6.5 TFLs, 5.5 sacks, and three blocked kicks from the defensive tackle position this season. He is the national leader in QB pressures among interior defenders with 39, according to PFF, 16 more pressures than any other Big Ten interior defender.
Newton has been one of the most durable defensive tackles in the nation, as he leads all Power-5 defensive tackles in snaps played with 611 (61.1 per game). Newton has played 58 more snaps than any other Power-5 interior defensive lineman and 94 more than any Big Ten defensive tackle.
Newton’s two biggest games have come 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.
On special teams, Newton is tied for the national lead with three blocked kicks, along with Pitt LB Rasheem Biles. All three of Newton’s blocks have come in Big Ten games: a field-goal attempt vs. Penn State (9/16/23), an extra point at Purdue (9/30/23), and another extra point vs. Indiana (11/11/23).
Newton and the Illini are back in action on Saturday at Iowa. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. CT on FS1.