Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt was named to the Maxwell Award preseason watch list. The award, given out since 1937, goes to the nation's top college football player.
Lunt completed 270 of 481 passes last season for 2,761 yards, 14 touchdowns and six interceptions. He ranks ninth among Illini in career passing yardage (4,524 yards) and touchdown passes (28). If healthy, he is on pace to finish among the top-five all-time passers at Illinois.
Illinois defensive end Dawuane Smoot was named to the Chuck Bednarik Award preseason watch list. The award, given out since 1995, goes to the nation's top defensive player.
Smoot broke out in 2015, leading the Illini with 15.0 tackles for loss and eight sacks, which is tied for the most among returning Big Ten defenders. Several web sites project Smoot as a first-round draft pick in 2017.