Illini LB Jake Hansen Named To Bednarik Award Watch List

Matthew Stevens

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Illinois senior linebacker Jake Hansen was named to the 2020 Bednarik Award watch list.

The selection committee for the Maxwell Award, which presents the Bednarik Award annually, announced its watch list of players Monday morning. It is the first career preseason watch list for Hansen, who was a Butkus Award semifinalist in 2019.

The Chuck Bednarik Award, which is presented annually to the defensive player of the year in college football. The award is named in honor of Chuck Bednarik, three-time All-American at the University of Pennsylvania and a member of the College and Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The award, which was won in the last three years by Ohio State’s Chase Young, Kentucky’s Josh Allen and Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick, is voted on by college football head coaches, members of the Maxwell Football Club & sportswriters and sportscasters from across the country.

Hansen, who is expected to slide in at middle linebacker on Lovie Smith’s defense this season for the Illini, was a third-team selection by Athlon’s after the 2019 Butkus Award semifinalist had 72 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, one interception, seven forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries despite missing four games due to injury.

At one point last season, Hansen leads the nation with seven forced fumbles and ranks second in the country with three fumble recoveries. He is the No. 11 graded linebacker in the nation by Pro Football Focus (81.1) and No. 6 in Power-5. Hansen had one of his best games in Orange & Blue during the Illini's 24-23 upset over No. 6 Wisconsin that sparked Illinois' current three-game winning streak. He was named the Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after two forced fumbles against the Badgers led Illinois to one of the biggest upsets in Big Ten history.