Midseason Awards Abound For Illini Gridders

J Leman's interception was a key to Illinois' victory over Penn State Sept. 29.
J Leman's interception was a key to Illinois' victory over Penn State Sept. 29.

Oct. 11, 2007

Rashard Mendenhall has rushed for 772 yards in the first six games of the 2007 season.

Three University of Illinois football players were named to midseason All-America teams as announced by and Phil Steele's Football Magazine. Senior J Leman was among the three linebackers selected to the first-teams on both lists. Running back Rashard Mendenhall and offensive guard Martin O'Donnell were named to Phil Steele's All-America second-team. Additionally, Leman has been named a semifinalist for the Draddy National Scholar-Athlete Award, given by the National Football Foundation.

Leman ranks as one of the top-3 linebackers in the nation, based on his play in the first half of the 2007 season. Through six games, Leman ranks fifth in the nation in tackles per game and leads the Big Ten, something he has done for the last 14 straight weeks. He is the leader of a defense, which has not allowed a 100-yard rusher this season.

Martin O'Donnell (64) anchors an Illini offensive line that has facilitated Illinois' Big Ten-leading ground game.

One of the main reasons for Illinois' offensive success thus far this season has been the emergence of the running game, which is currently fifth in the nation at 261.2 yards per game. Two of the biggest reasons are O'Donnell and Mendenhall, who are second-team selections. The honor puts Mendenhall among the top-4 running backs in the country, and O'Donnell among the top-10 offensive linemen. Mendenhall has rushed for 128 yards per contest and is averaging 6.8 yards per carry, which is the fourth-best in the NCAA. O'Donnell has led a line that has given up only seven sacks all season and the total offense numbers are the fourth-best in school history (412.5).

Leman is also a semifinalist for the Draddy Award. One of college football's most sought after and competitive awards, the Draddy Trophy recognizes an individual as the absolute best in the country for his combined academic success, football performance and exemplary community leadership. Leman has already graduated from the U of I with a degree in speech communications and will complete his master's degree in human resource education in December. He carries a 3.71 GPA and has twice been named a CoSIDA/ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District selection.