Illinois junior linebacker Mason Monheim has been named to the preseason watch list for the 2014 Dick Butkus Award, given to the top college football linebacker and named after the greatest linebacker in football history and former Illini Dick Butkus.
Monheim will take on a larger role this season after Jonathan Brown's graduation. Brown was a 2013 Butkus Award semifinalists. Monheim was a 2012 Freshman All-American and was the first ever true-freshman to lead the Illini in tackles with 86. Last season, he finished ninth in the Big Ten in tackles with 8.1 per game and 97 total, including 6.5 tackles for loss and four sacks.
Monheim is one of six Big Ten linebackers on the 51-player watch list. The other four linebackers hail from the Big Ten East Division: Curtis Grant (Ohio State), Mike Hull (Penn State), Taiwan Jones (Michigan State), Jake Ryan (Michigan), and Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil (Maryland). This is the third straight year an Illini has made the list. Monheim will look to become the first Illini to win the award since Kevin Hardy did 1995.
Two other Illini players have also been named to preseason watch list: Senior tight end Matt LaCosse to the College Football Performance Awards and V'Angelo Bentley to the Paul Hornung Award for the most versatile player in college football.