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.
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Mercilus has 52 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, 14.5 sacks, nine forced fumbles and six quarterback hurries this season. He’s broken the Illinois and Big Ten single-season records for forced fumbles and is just one shy of tying the NCAA record of 10. He also is 1.5 sacks away from tying former two-time All-America Simeon Rice’s school season record of 16 sacks. He has had at least one sack in 10 of 12 games this season, including a career-high three against Indiana, and has forced a fumble in four straight games.
Mercilus has a decision to make soon. he can follow the lead of least year’s breakout Illini defensive star Corey Liuget, who went from obscurity to stud, and then declared early for the NFL. Many draftniks see him going in the first round in April- should he declare.
He’s also still a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, which goes to the national Defensive Player of the Year, and a semifinalist for both the Bednarik Award, which is essentially the same thing.
Previous Hendricks Award winners include Da’Quan Bowers of Clemson (2010), Jerry Hughes of TCU (2009), Brian Orakpo of Texas (2008), Chris Long of Virginia (2007), LaMarr Woodley Michigan Wolverines (2006), Elvis Dumerville of Louisville (2005), David Pollack of Georgia (2003 and 2004) and Terrell Suggs of Arizona State (2002).
Mercilus Honors in 2011 (as of Dec. 6)
Ted Hendricks National Defensive End of the Year Award winner
First Team All-American (AFCA)
First Team All-Big Ten (Coaches and Media)
Bronko Nagurski Trophy Finalist
Bednarik Award and Rotary Lombardi Award Semifinalist
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