- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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Congratulations to Illinois junior Whitney Mercilus, who won the Hendricks Defensive End of the Year Award on Wednesday.
You can't argue with Mercilus's stats. He leads the nation in sacks (14.5) and forced fumbles (nine) while ranking sixth nationally in tackles for loss per game (19.5 total). Mercilus needs one forced fumble in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl game to tie an NCAA single-season record, and he is 1.5 sacks away from tying the Illini school record set by Simeon Rice.
He is the first major national award winner from Illinois since Dana Howard (1994) and Kevin Hardy (1995) won the Butkus Award in back-to-back years.
The other finalists for the Hendricks Award were Oklahoma's Frank Alexander, Clemson's Andre Branch, Marshall's Vinny Curry, LSU's Sam Montgomery and USC's Nick Perry, Jr.
Mercilus also is a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, which goes to the national Defensive Player of the Year. He has been named a first-team All-American by the American Football Coaches Association was a first team All-Big Ten selection. He also was a semifinalist for both 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.
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