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Two Illini selected to BTN Preseason All-Big Ten Team

Mason Monheim, Earnest Thomas III earn preseason honors from the Big Ten Network.

Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

With the Big Ten media days Monday and Tuesday in Chicago, asked one writer from each school to pick their 2014 preseason All-Big Ten team. Each writer selected a first-team offense and defense, plus some end of the year awards.

Linebacker Mason Monheim and defensive back Earnest Thomas III represent the Illini on the list. Each received one vote from's Penn State writer Ben Jones.

The junior linebacker Monheim has already been named to the Dick Butkus Award watch list this preseason. Monheim was a 2012 Freshman All-American and was the first ever true-freshman to lead the Illini in tackles with 86. In 2013, 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.

The senior defensive back Thomas started all 12 games at strong safety in 2013 and posted 101 tackles and led the team with seven pass break ups. He also tied for fifth in the Big Ten last season with three forced fumbles and his six career total ties for fifth in Illini history.

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