Illinois junior Martez Wilson and Northwestern senior Quentin Davie were named to the Butkus Award watch list on Tuesday.
The award, which is named after former Illinois linebacker Dick Butkus, is given to the nation’s top linebacker. Fifty-one players were named to the watch list.
Wilson, who is 6-4 and 250 pounds, was also named to the list last season before suffering a herniated disc in Illinois’ season-opener against Missouri. He sat out the rest of the season. As a sophomore, he recorded 73 tackles and 5.5 tackles for a loss.
“Having Martez back there is a big, big plus and big bonus,” Illinois coach Ron Zook recently said. “Injuries are part of the game, but when you lose a guy like Martez who was clearly the leader of the defense in the first game that made a big, big difference. He’s back. He’s excited.”
Illinois linebackers Dana Howard and Kevin Hardy won the award in 1993 and 1994.
Davie, who is 6-4 and 230 pounds, had a team-best 90 tackles and a 11.5 tackles for a loss last season. He was especially impressive in the Outback Bowl with nine tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss and a pass breakup.
“I talked to the football gods before that game,” Davie recently said. “It was like just fly around. I just ran around. It was fun. I did my job and good things happened. It was kind of a catalyst for this season. I kind of look back to that game and wonder why didn’t I play like that the whole year. This year I’m sure I’ll be flying around like that every game.”