CHAMPAIGN, Illinois – Illinois Defense Coordinator Ryan Walters was nominated for the prestigious Broyles Award, given to the nation’s top assistant coach. Walters has coached his way to becoming a front-runner at the Broyles Award as Illinois ranks in the nation’s top 10 in 20 defensive categories.
Walters’ unit is led by Bednarik Award semi-finalists CB Devon Witherspoon and DT Jer’Zhan Newton. Illinois and Alabama are the only teams with two Bednarik semifinalists to rank the top 20 defensemen in the country.
The semifinalists for the Broyles Awards will be announced on November 22nd and the finalists on November 29th. The Broyles Award will be presented on December 6th in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Here’s a look at Illinois’ defense notes:
• Illinois ranks in the top 10 in 20 defensive categories: 1st in Interceptions (17), 1st in Passing Efficiency Defense (90.37), 2nd in Total Defense (246.9), 2nd in Touchdowns Allowed (13), 2nd in passes defended (69), 2nd in yards per pass attempt (5.3), 3rd in scoring defense (12.5), 3rd in takeaways (23), 4th in down Defense (26.9%), th in Rushing Touchdowns Allowed (5), 4th in Passing Touchdowns Allowed (8), 4th in Few Red Zone Attempts Allowed (21), 5th in Passing Defense ( 161.0), 5th in Yards per Rush (3.0), 5th in Third Down Conversions Against (36), 5th in Fourth Down Conversions Against (4), 6th in Rushing Defense (85, 9), 6th in First Downs Allowed (138), 8th in Red Zone Touchdown Percentage (42.9%), 10th in Tackle for Loss Yards (305)
• Illinois and Alabama are the only teams with two Bednarik semifinalists (Newton, Witherspoon).
• The Illinois defense ranks 4th nationally on ESPN’s SP+ metric and 5th on PFF.
• Illinois allowed just 17 points in the fourth quarter, up from 10 against Purdue last week.
• Illinois has rushed for under 100 yards in six out of ten games this season.
• Illinois’ pass coverage is ranked third nationally by PFF and its run defense fourth.
• Illinois had held six straight opponents to 14 points or fewer before losing to Michigan State, their longest streak since 1989.
• Illinois is 7-0 if less than 20 points are allowed and 0-3 if more than 20 points are allowed.
• Illinois has at least one interception in all 10 games this season and has one interception in 13 straight games since last season.
• Eight different Illini have had an interception this season.
• Michigan State and Purdue are the only teams to win over 100 yards rushing and over 100 yards passing in the same game against Illinois.
• Illinois have allowed just 13 touchdowns on 127 opposing drives.
• During Illinois’ seven wins, opponents have a third down conversion rate of 19.8% (18-91).
• Illinois allowed 11.9 points per game at home this season, the best result at Memorial Stadium since the Big Ten-winning team allowed 9.4 points per game in 1983.
• Illinois held Wisconsin to just two yards rushing, the fewest yards the Badgers have rushed at home since being held to 12 yards against Ohio State on Nov. 3, 2007.
• Illinois didn’t allow a touchdown in a nonconference game for the first time since 1921 (52-0 v South Dakota, 21-0 v DePauw), which helped Illinois complete its first unbeaten nonconference game since 2011. It was the first time Illinois had played more than 3 nonconference games without allowing a TD since 1917 (22-0 vs. Kansas, 44-0 vs. Oklahoma, 28-0 vs. Camp Funston).
• Illinois have conceded 50 passing yards or fewer in three games (30 v Wyoming, 49 v Chattanooga, 38 v Minnesota).
• Kendall Smith and Sydney Brown are ranked 10th in the nation in interceptions (4) and second in the Big Ten. Illinois is the only team in the nation with two players with four interceptions.
• Johnny Newton (46) and Seth Coleman (32) have 78 combined pressures, the most in the Big Ten among teammates, according to the PFF.
• Devon Witherspoon and Jartavius Martin have defended 27 passes combined, which is the most in the nation among teammates (Virginia’s Anthony Johnson and Fentrell Cypress II).