Three Illini linemen on preseason watch lists

CHAMPAIGN — Three Illinois offensive lineman earned more preseason honors Tuesday. Defensive tackles Johnny Newton and Keith Randolph Jr. both were named to the Bronko Nagurski Trophy watch list, while Randolph and offensive lineman Isaiah Adams were on the Outland Trophy watch list.
Newton has already garnered multiple preseason All-American honors, including a first-team pick by Athlon.
The 6-foot-2, 295-pound defensive tackle was an All-Big Ten First Team selection in 2022 and nearly a consensus Second Team All-American. Newton was the only Big Ten defensive lineman to play more than 400 snaps last season and finished the year with 62 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 11 quarterback hurries, 5 1/2 sacks and two fumble recoveries.
Newton tied for the national lead in quarterback hits with 19, according to Pro Football Focus. He also led all Power Five interior defensive linemen in pressures with 59 — seven more than his closest competitor — per PFF.
Randolph, the second half of the “Law Firm,” earned preseason All-Big Ten First Team recognition from Athlon and Phil Steele and was a preseason Third Team and Fourth Team All-American, respectively, by those two outlets.
Randolph finished the 2022 season with 53 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, five quarterback hurries, 4 1/2 sacks, one interception, one pass breakup and one blocked kick. The 6-5, 305-pound Belleville native had the No. 8 tackling grade in the nation among interior defensive linemen, per PFF.
Adams started all 13 games for Illinois in 2022 — 12 at left guard and one at left tackle — after transferring from Garden City Community College (Kan.). The 6-5, 315-pound Canadian led the Illini in knockdowns with 120 1/2 and had double-digit knockdowns in six of 12 games, making him a key member of an Illinois offensive line that was a Joe Moore Award semifinalist.
Adams earned All-Big Ten Third Team honors last season as the No. 29-graded guard nationally and No. 5 in the Big Ten, according to PFF. He heads into 2023 as a preseason All-Big Ten Second Team pick by Athlon and Phil Steele.
The Bronko Nagurski Trophy has been awarded annually since 1993 to the best defensive player in college football. Former Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr. won in both 2021 and 2022.
Newton and Randolph were two of the 15 Big Ten players named to the Bronko Nagurski Trophy watch list.
The others included the likes of Penn State linebacker Abdul Carter, Michigan linebacker Junior Colson, Iowa cornerback Cooper DeJean, Ohio State linebacker Tommy Eichenberg, Michigan State linebacker Cal Haladay, Michigan defensive tackle Kris Jenkins, Penn State cornerback Kalen King, Michigan safety Rod Moore, Wisconsin linebacker Maema Njongmeta, Minnesota safety Tyler Nubin, Ohio State safety Lathan Ransom, Penn State defensive end Chop Robinson and Ohio State defensive end JT Tuimoloau.
The Outland Trophy is awarded to the top interior lineman — offensive or defensive — in the country.
Five teams have three players on the preseason watch list, while Illinois was among the group with two representatives. Adams and Randolph were part of 11 linemen from the Big Ten on the watch list.
The others included: Penn State offensive tackle Olu Fashanu, Ohio State defensive tackle Mike Hall Jr., Purdue center Gus Hartwig, Ohio State guard Donovan Jackson, Michigan defensive tackle Kris Jenkins, Ohio State guard Matthew Jones, Michigan guard Trevor Keegan, Michigan center Drake Nugent and Michigan guard Zak Zinter.

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