WACO, Tex. - Illinois junior defensive end Whitney Mercilus has been named to the 2011 AFCA FBS Coaches All-America Team, announced today by the American Football Coaches Association. Mercilus is one four defensive linemen on the 25-man team and is Illinois' first AFCAfirst-team All-American since linebacker J Leman in 2007.
Mercilus, who is a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Year Award and the Ted Hendricks National Defensive End of the Year Award, leads the nation in sacks, sacks per game and forced fumbles while ranking sixth nationally in tackles for loss per game.
A native of Akron, Ohio, Mercilus is one of college football's breakout players in 2011, as he has 52 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, 14.5 sacks, nine forced fumbles and six quarterback hurries. Mercilus has already has broken the Illinois and Big Ten single-season records for forced fumbles and is 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.
In addition to being a finalist for the Hendricks and Nagurski Awards, Mercilus also is a first team All-Big Ten selection and is a semifinalist for the Bednarik Award, given annually to the nation's top defensive player, and the Rotary Lombardi Award, given annually to the nation's top offensive or defensive lineman or linebacker.
Mercilus will have a chance to add to his record totals, as the Illini will face UCLA in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on Dec. 31 in San Francisco. For more information on Illinois' second straight bowl bid, visit Illinois Bowl Central: http://bit.ly/ILBowlCentral
Mercilus Honors in 2011 (as of Dec. 5)
First Team All-American (AFCA)
First Team All-Big Ten (Coaches and Media)
Bronko Nagurski Trophy Finalist
Hendricks Award Finalist
Bednarik Award Semifnalist
Rotary Lombardi Award Semifinalist
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