"I am really proud of J," head coach Ron Zook said. "The defense showed great improvement this year and that is a tribute to everyone out there, but there is no doubt that J is one of the leaders and did a tremendous job with everything that was asked of him this season."
Leman led the conference in total tackles (152) and tackles per game (12.7), and ranked second in the NCAA. He was even more impressive in league games, with 13.4 tackles per contest. He was also among the Big Ten's best in tackles for loss with 19 for the season, which was second in the league and 10th in the nation. His tackles and TFLs both rank sixth on the Illinois single-season lists. Leman is Illinois' first first-team All-Big Ten selection since Steve Weatherford in 2004.
"I feel very honored," Leman said. "The credit for this award goes to the defensive line and all the players around me as well as Coach Zook, Coach (Dan) Disch and Coach (Vince) Okruch. They are the reason I was able to play well and excel this season."
Also recognized on the all-conference teams were seniors Ball and Thomas, junior Reda and rookie Davis. Thomas wrapped up his career at Illinois ranked sixth on the school's all-time rushing list with 2,545 yards. He also broke the kickoff return yardage record with 223 yards this season on seven returns. He finishes with 4,451 all-purpose yards, which are the second-most all-time in the school's record books. Ball leaves Illinois as a four-year starter at cornerback, with nearly 200 total tackles (198). He had two interceptions this season and led the team with 12 passes broken up. He posted 22 PBUs for his career, which ranks him eighth on the Illinois all-time list.
Reda ranked third in the Big Ten in field goals per game and field goal percentage after making 15-of-19 (78.9 percent). He was also perfect with 24 extra point attempts made. He led the team in scoring for the second straight year with 69 points. Davis started for the Illini at cornerback as a true-freshman and posted 52 tackles, 2.5 for loss, an interception and six passes broken up.