Illini LB Tre Watson named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week

Illini redshirt sophomore linebacker Tre Watson earns Big Ten honor after 16-tackle performance against Michigan State

Tre Watson said after Saturday's 31-27 win against Michigan State that he'd grown "a long way."

The progress was honored Monday with the redshirt sophomore linebacker earning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors for his 16-tackle performance against the Spartans.

"I think it comes with getting more and more experience, seeing different things and knowing how a situation went before, whether it went good or bad and knowing what you need to do to make sure that situation goes better for you next time," Watson said on Saturday. "Just having a complete understanding of what you need to do on each and every individual play and being able to do it. The faster you're able to play and the more confidence you have, it translates into a better football game." Watson, who added 1.5 tackles for loss and a pass break up, is the first Illinois player to earn defensive player of the week honors since Tavon Wilson on Oct. 10, 2011.

Watson, a Tampa, Fla. native, made his first career start in the Illini's Big Ten opener at Nebraska and ranks third in the Big Ten in tackles per game (10.2) since then.

Watson's improved play, along with several other young Illini including freshmen safeties Stanley Green and Patrick Nelson and freshmen defensive tackles Jamal Milan and Kenyon Jackson, has helped the Illini take strides in recent weeks -- culminating in Saturday's win against Michigan State.

"It's great," Watson said on Saturday. "It's something that's going to propel us moving forward throughout the season and into the future and show in high-pressure moments that we can do what we need to do to win a football game."

Illini Inquirer Top Stories