Illini Whitney Mercilus Entering the NFL Draft

whitney-mercilus

University of Illinois junior defensive end Whitney Mercilus announced today that he will forgo his senior season at Illinois to enter the 2012 NFL Draft.

 Mercilus who has the best name a defensive line man can have, emerged from total obscurity to have a banner year for the Fighting Illini, tying Simeon Rice’s single-season record and leading the nation with 16 sacks.

He also forced nine fumbles on the season, breaking Illinois and Big Ten records and ranking as the second-most in NCAA history. His 22.5 tackles for loss in 2011 led the Big Ten, rank second in the nation and third in the Illinois record book.

[Read more…]

Illini DE Whitney Mercilus: Best at his Position in the Nation

whitney-mercilus

University of Illinois junior defensive end Whitney Mercilus was named yesterday to the Associated Press All-America first team. That means he’s truly “everybody’s All-American” and he’s been named to 10 different All-America teams. Nine of which were first-team.

He also took home the Hendricks Award, given annually to the nation’s top defensive end.

“There’s a lot of great players out there, and I just happened to beat them out. It’s a blessing,” Mercilus said during halftime of a recent Illini basketball game.

[Read more…]

Illini Defensive End Whitney Mercilus Wins Top National DE Award

whitney_mercilus

Illinois junior Whitney Mercilus has won the 2011 Hendricks Defensive End of the Year Award. Mercilus led the nation in sacks, sacks per game and forced fumbles while ranking sixth nationally in tackles for loss per game. He becomes the first Illini national award winner since Dana Howard (1994) and Kevin Hardy (1995) won the Butkus Award (best linebacker in college football) in back-to-back years.

With a name like Mercilus, pronounced merciless, you have to be a college football player. And a player at the very aggressive attacking position of defensive end too- that helps. He’s a man with a name built for his role like former Illini OL Eric Block, or current Buffalo Bills DB Reggie Corner.

Mercilus beat out finalists Frank Alexander (Oklahoma), Andre Branch (Clemson), Vinny Curry (Marshall), Sam Montgomery (LSU) and Nick Perry, Jr. (USC), garnering over half the vote from current and former college coaches, former players, media members and pro football personnel professionals.

[Read more…]

DE Corey Coreysaurus Wootton leads Northwestern’s Defense

coreywootton

By Paul M. Banks

In 2008, Northwestern finished just one win shy of the school record. They found success primarily because of their defense, as the ’Cats set a single-season defensive rushing record, holding their foes to 126.4 yards per game. Ahead of the previous school record from the Wildcats’ mythical 1995 Rose Bowl season. Newly installed defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz brought in a new attacking-style defense, and the aggressive style paid off as NU recorded a Big Ten-best 34 sacks, 18th-best in the country.

Playboy Preseason All-America Defensive End Corey Wootton led the way with 16.0 TFL’s and 10.0 sacks. He enters his final season ranked fifth on NU’s career list for TFL’s (16) and fourth on NU’s career list for pass sacks (15.5). “Coreysaurus” Wootton also enters Saturday’s season opener against Towson on the watch lists for the Hendricks, Bednarik, Nagurski, Lott and Lombardi Trophy. The 6’7” Wootton explained to me how he got that moniker:

“I got dubbed that nickname from a teammate of mine that just graduated, Todd Dockery cuz of my long neck. I used to be real thin when I was a freshman. Since then he’s always called me “Coreysaurus.” Excuse me for not having a Coreysaurus graphic from PhotoShop. Although a picture of the Coreysaurus Rex stomping on opposing QBs is something the NU marketing department should seriously look into making and distributing. I also asked Wooton about his height affecting his game:tyrannosaurus

“It works to my advantage having a long wingspan, the height, being able to get my hands into the passing lanes, leverage and separation from people. But at the same time it can be a disadvantage. You’re more of a target o get cut {blocked underneath by opponents} things of that nature,” he stated. I brought up how his long arms helped disrupt the passing lanes of Missouri’s Chase Daniel, a 5’10” quarterback, in last year’s Alamo Bowl.

“When you have a shorter quarterback, the angle that they’re projecting the ball isn’t going to be as high as someone who’s 6’4”, 6’5.” You just got to get your hands into the passing lanes a lot and hopefully bat it down,” he responded.

Wotton is tabbed a first-team All-Big Ten preseason selection by Lindy’s, Athlon Sports, Phil Steele’s and Sporting News.  He’s got his eyes set on improving a few things to live up to that. “Working on my second and third moves, I feel like I have a pretty decent first move, but working on that second move, that counter, improving aspects of my footwork, run defense, and all that I’ll continue to work on though the season,” Wootton said. Last year, he set the bar high, so he’ll need a really big year to top it.

He was voted first-team All-Big Ten by conference coaches and the team’s Most Valuable Player. For the second season in his career, he recorded a statistic in every major defensive category (tackles, TFL’s, sacks, pass deflections, interceptions, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries, QB hurries and blocked kicks).

Moving forward, I asked Corey who he thought the best player comparison for his game would be “It would be cool if they said the next Julius Peppers. He’s a tremendous player, a tremendous athlete, we have kind of similar size. One day I hope to even touch the waters of what he is, a truly tremendous a player,” Corey answered.

I then mentioned how rare it was for a defensive player to receive Heisman votes, and Peppers actually finished in the top 10 in 2001 voting. “It’s expected for mostly offensive players, quarterbacks, wide receivers, running backs to get those awards, but when you get recognized for that, especially at defensive end, a position that’s not as highly publicized as other positions, it’s a great honor and it shows what a legacy he left. Not only at North Carolina, but in college football,” He replied. It’s true that DEs don’t often get the pub, but perhaps that’s changing?

Ohio State Northwestern Football

“Defensive ends get publicized more than interior linemen and offensive lineman probably because they’re the pretty version of a lineman. You stand up sometimes, you’re on the edge. They’re a little leaner. So they’re publicized, but not as much as linebackers and defensive backs. The game has changed so much over recent years. Julius Peppers was a freak of nature back then and now you’re seeing guys who have tremendous size and athleticism everywhere,” Wooton said.