More Illinois Fighting Illini Named to College Football Award Watch Lists

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We already told you about QB Nathan Scheelhaase being named a candidate for the Maxwell Award, the most outstanding player in college football. But there’s more:

Illinois senior wide receiver A.J. Jenkins has been named a preseason candidate for the 2011 Biletnikoff Award, given annually to the nation’s most outstanding wide receiver by the Tallahassee Quarterback Club Foundation.

Jenkins led the Illini in receiving in 2010 with 56 catches for 746 yards and seven touchdowns. His seven touchdowns rank eighth on the UI single-season TD receptions list. Jenkins had two 100-yard games during his junior season, including a career-best 137-yard effort against the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Nov. 13.

A native of Jacksonville, Fla., Jenkins was part of the 2010 Orange and Blue offense that broke school records for most points scored in a season (423) and season scoring average (32.54 ppg). He also helped the 2010 Illini to the program’s first bowl victory since 1999, a 38-14 win over Baylor in the Texas Bowl.

University of Illinois senior tackle Jeff Allen was named to the preseason watch list for the Rotary Lombardi Award Tuesday, an honor given annually to the top lineman in college football. The award is limited to down linemen, end-to-end, on offense or defense, who set up no farther than 10 yards to the left or right of the ball, and linebackers who set up no farther than five yards from the line of scrimmage.

It is the second preseason watch list that Allen has been named to after being listed on the Outland Trophy (top interior lineman) watch list last week.

Allen helped pave the way for the top rushing offense in the Big Ten and 11th best in the nation (246.1 ypg) during the 2010 season. Seeing time in all 13 games on the season, Allen helped Illinois produce the second-most rushing yards (3,199) and fourth-most total yards (5,162) in school history. In addition, running back Mikel Leshourebroke the single-season rushing record (1,697 yards) behind Allen and the rest of the Illini offensive line in 2010.

Candidates were named to the watch list by earning All-America or all-conference honors in 2010, by being projected to be an All-American or first-team all-conference player for 2011 or by nomination approved by the nominations committee.

Senior kicker Derek Dimke was named to the 30-man watch list for the Lou Groza Award on Thursday, the Palm Beach Sports Commission announced. The Groza Award is presented annually to the nation’s most outstanding placekicker.

Dimke was a semifinalist for the Groza Award last season, when he connected on 24-of-29 field goals to tie the UI record for made field goals in season and earn second team All-Big Ten honors. His 115points scored in 2010 broke Rashard Mendenhall’s school record for points in a season (114 in 2007), however, running back Mikel Leshoure also broke Mendenhall’s mark last season with 122 points. Dimke did establish a new UI scoring mark for kickers, topping Neil Rackers’ 110 points in 1999.

redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Akeem Spence has been named a preseason candidate for the 2011 Bronko Nagurski Trophy and 2011 Outland Trophy, while senior offensive lineman Jeff Allen also earned recognition on the Outland Trophy Watch List. Given annually to the nation’s most outstanding defensive player, the Bronko Nagurski Trophy is awarded by the Charlotte Touchdown Club in association with the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). The Outland Trophy recognizes the best interior lineman on offense or defense as selected by the FWAA.

ILLINI ON 2011 PRESEASON WATCH LISTS (through July 12):
Jeff Allen: Outland Trophy (Interior Line), Rotary Lombardi (College Lineman of the Year)
Derek Dimke: Groza Award (PK), College Football Performance Awards (PK and KOS)
A.J. Jenkins: Biletnikoff Award (WR)
Nathan Scheelhaase: Maxwell Award (Best Overall Player), College Football Performance Awards (QB)
Akeem Spence: Bronko Nagurski Trophy (Best Defensive Player), Outland Trophy (Interior Line)

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports You can follow him on Twitter

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