What else can we say about Johnny Newton that hasn’t already been said?
The dude is a BEAST and an unstoppable force for the Illinois D-Line. The only thing that can pause his dominance? The refs.
During this year’s Homecoming game hosting Wisconsin, Newton put up the highest graded performance by any college football player in the country for Week 8 with a score of 95.1.
The junior had 6 tackles (4 solo), 1 sack and 1 forced fumble before his controversial ejection for targeting in the fourth quarter.
Newton’s helmet made contact with Wisconsin QB Braedyn Locke’s helmet and the officials deemed the hit to be a targeting penalty. Newton was immediately disqualified for the rest of the game as well as for the first half of the game at Minnesota following Illinois’ bye week.
Directly following the hit on the QB, Newton was seen holding his head in regret. On the sideline, he was sobbing and consoled by fellow DL, and other half of the “Law Firm,” Keith Randolph Jr.
This was not an intentional hit to the head, and that’s the most frustrating part.
Obviously, we know how the defense collapsed after Newton’s departure, giving up 18 unanswered points including a last minute touchdown in what turned out to be a 25-21 loss.
However, this is just a testament to how important Newton has been to this defensive unit.
If the disqualification never took place, Illinois would’ve had a much better chance of salvaging a homecoming win in a Big Ten matchup.
Even though Illinois now sits in sole last place in the West, that should not take a single thing away from Johnny Newton’s dominance in the 2023 campaign.
He’s been the clear MVP for the Illini this year, and its not particularly close.
Highest graded College Football player from Week 8:— PFF College (@PFF_College) October 23, 2023
Jer’Zhan Newton: 95.1 pic.twitter.com/KmND4LJjmM
Newton leads all interior defensive lineman across the country in QB pressures, QB hurries, snaps played and is T-4th in sacks. He also holds a share of the most blocked kicks by a college football player at ANY position this season.
The Illini captain has already been named to the midseason All-American First Team via AP, The Athletic and PFF.
While the ejection seemed detrimental at the time this past weekend, it will prove to be nothing more than a minor set back for one of the greatest defensive linemen in the history of Illinois football.
With the orange and blue having the week off, Newton will look to pick up right where he left off in the second half of Illinois’ visit to Minnesota on Saturday, Nov. 4. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. at Huntington Bank Stadium.