As one of the sole bright spots for the Illini in Saturday’s loss against Penn State, junior defensive tackle Jer’Zhan Newton dominated the Nittany Lions’ offensive line.
Newton was all over the field in Week 3.
He led the nation among DTs with 14 total pressures, seven of which were QB pressures, a 24% pass rush win rate, an 86.6 run defense grade and an 89.8 PFF grade.
On top of that, Newton blocked a field goal, had two passes defended, and finished with six total tackles, two of those being solo and one for a loss.
The Illinois defense was the only reason why their first Big Ten matchup was even a competitive game at all. Newton led the defensive unit as far as impact on the game goes.
After a relatively quiet first week from the junior, Newton absolutely balled out against a top 10 opponent.
Mock drafts have had Newton going in the mid-first round. With performances like this, he’s only going to boost his draft stock and shoot up every analysts’ mock boards.
Illinois DT Jer’Zhan Newton in Week 3:— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 18, 2023
89.8 PFF Grade
7 QB Pressures
24% Pass Rush Win Rate
86.6 Run Defense Grade pic.twitter.com/3oY1RZMXEM
The final score may not reflect it, but the Illini defense is coming around. If they can continue to keep Illinois in football games, contending for a Big Ten West championship is not out of the realm of possibility.
Newton has a chance to repeat his dominant performance this Saturday, as Illinois hosts the Florida Atlantic Owls at 2:30 p.m. CT in Champaign.