If and when the 2020 season begins, college football experts have high hopes for Illini linebacker Jake Hansen.
Earlier in the offseason Hansen was named to the Bednarik Watch List for best defensive player in he country. As of Monday he is on the watch list for the Butkus Award, the award given annually to the best linebacker in the nation — named after Illini legend Dick Butkus.
Hansen found his name on the same list late last season as well, but also found himself sidelined with an injury that prevented him from potentially winning.
The Florida native spent last season as an outside linebacker and watched middle linebacker Dele Harding lead the Big Ten in tackles and make the All-Big Ten First Team, but Hansen was no slouch either.
A year ago Hansen had 72 tackles, 3.5 sacks, an interception and led the nation with seven forced fumbles — creating numerous turnovers for an Illini defense that thrived on taking the ball away. Not to mention, Hansen missed the last four games with injury. That was still enough to take home All-Big Ten honorable mention
Hansen was nationally recognized as Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after his performance during the Illini upset of then No. 6 Wisconsin, and is looking to build on that for his last go around in Orange and Blue.
Hansen, who is expected to make the switch from outside linebacker to middle linebacker, has the nation on high alert for his senior season as he looks to follow in the footsteps of an Illini great.