Jenkins, Mercilus Named First-Team All-Big Ten
Nov. 28, 2011
PARK RIDGE, Ill. - Five Illinois football players were named to the All-Big Ten teams by coaches and media, while four others earned honorable mention laurels, as announced Monday night on the Big Ten Network. Senior wide receiver A.J. Jenkins and junior defensive end Whitney Mercilus were first-team picks by both the coaches and media.
Junior bandit Michael Buchanan was a second-team selection on both teams, while senior offensive tackle Jeff Allen and sophomore linebacker Jonathan Brown were named to the second team by the media. Allen, Brown and senior linebacker Ian Thomas were honorable mention selections by the coaches, and senior defensive back Tavon Wilson was on the media's honorable mention list. Senior kicker Derek Dimke and junior defensive back Terry Hawthorne were honorable mention picks by both groups. Sophomore quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase is Illinois' honoree for the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award.
Mercilus has had a monster 2011 campaign, leading the nation in sacks (14.5), sacks per game (1.21) and breaking the Big Ten record with nine forced fumbles, one shy of the NCAA record of 10. A finalist for the Nagurski Award as the nation's best defensive player, Mercilus has lived up to his name, forcing a fumble in four straight games and in six of the last seven, while registering at least one sack in 10 of 12 games this season. He led the Big Ten with 19.5 tackles for loss and is close to breaking Simeon Rice's UI sacks record of 16.
Jenkins is having one of the best seasons for a wide receiver in school history, racking up a Big Ten-best 84 catches for 1,194 yards and seven touchdowns. He ranks second on the Illinois single-season receiving yards list and third on the receptions list. Jenkins accounted for 53.3 percent of Illinois' receiving yards this season, by far the highest percentage in the nation. He broke Illinois' single-game receiving record with 268 yards on 12 catches against Northwestern and followed that up with 182 yards at Indiana the next week, breaking the Big Ten record for most receiving yards in consecutive games.
Buchanan ranked fourth in Big Ten in sacks (6.5) and eighth in TFLs (12.5) while also totaling 60 tackles, four QB hurries and one forced fumble. Brown had a huge second half of the season, leading the Illini and ranking sixth in the Big Ten in tackles (9.3 per game), and racking up 19.0 TFLs to rank second in the conference behind Mercilus. In Big Ten play, Brown led the league in TFLs (14.5), ranked second in tackles (11.9 per game) and was seventh in sacks (4.5). Allen is a four-year starter at offensive tackle and has consistently graded out as the best Illini lineman among the categories of assignments, technique and effort. He has started every game since the fourth game of his freshman year, giving him 46 consecutive starts, which is the fifth-most career starts in UI history.
Dimke has missed just one kick all season, hitting 8-of-9 field goals and 32-of-32 extra points. He's currently the Illinois career leader in field goal and extra point accuracy, hitting 37-of-43 field gals (.861) and all 87 of his extra points as an Illini. Hawthorne has 55 tackles, including 3.5 TFLs, is tied for the team lead with two interceptions and is tied for fifth in the Big Ten with nine passes defended.
Thomas ranks second on the team with 78 tackles and also has 8.5 TFLs, 2.5 sacks and two fumble recoveries, while Wilson is third on the Illini with 74 tackles to go along with 5.5 TFLs, one sack, seven passes defended, one interception and two fumble recoveries, including one he returned 66 yards for a touchdown at Indiana.