INDIANAPOLIS — The tandem of star Illini DLs Keith Randolph Jr. and Johnny Newton are entering this season hungry with unfinished business from a successful campaign in 2022.
The two were present at Big Ten Media Days in Lucas Oil Stadium representing Illinois. Fresh off of All-Big Ten honors, the dynamic duo is ready for action.
“Just getting more sacks, helping my team win honestly,” Newton said. “Being the best defensive player I can be.”
The duo has high praise for each other as they continue to grow together in chemistry on the defensive side of the ball.
“It’s been so exciting to have my name connected to his, I wouldn’t want my name connected to anybody else,” Randolph said. “He’s a hard worker, great football player, great person, funny guy, comes to work everyday, he’s a leader.”
While obviously drawing the most attention on defense, the veteran linemen care more about the common goal at hand above their own personal achievements.
“I know a lot of teams that game plan towards me, or around me, focusing on me,” Newton said. “So that will open up a lot of the other defensive linemen to get one on ones and hopefully they can execute so they could get to shine.”
Not only do Randolph and Newton push each other, but they want to be role models for the rest of the team. They set the bar high so incoming players can follow suit.
“He pushes me to be a better Keith, and I push him to be a better Johnny,” Randolph said. “If one of our hands are on our hips, we come over and knock the hands off, just because we know the standard, and we don’t want young guys seeing us do that either.”
Despite losing key players on defense such as Syd, Quan and Spoon, the returning players are confident in their guys and can’t wait to put together another elite defensive front.
“Including the outside linebackers, that’s four dogs on the ball,” Newton said. “Gabe (Jacas) and Seth (Coleman) are two unique players, good defensive ends, outside linebackers, whatever you want to call them. On the inside, me and Keith, us four pass rushing, I feel like no team can stop us. I know that for a fact.”
Playing at the same position at the same school, these two guys are ultra competitive. When Randolph was asked what Newton currently does better than him, he paused and simply said, “talk trash.”
Coming into 2023 as preseason All-Americans, the Law Firm will take their first action of the year as Illinois hosts Toledo on Sept. 2.