Midseason Awards for Fighting Illini Football
The Fighting Illini have reached the halfway point of the 2013 season already a win better than last year and halfway to bowl eligibility.
Perhaps most impressive was the Illini's 45-17 drubbing over Cincinnati on September 7, who at the time had received 27 votes in the September 1 poll.
Following the win, Illinois received nine votes in the next poll, its only occasion of receiving votes thus far.
There have also been other high points throughout Illinois' season, a season which many feared would be even worse than last year. Here we present the midseason awards for Fighting Illini football.
Offensive MVP: Nathan Scheelhaase, QB
Senior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase has been the heart and soul of the Illini offense thus far. He currently ranks third in the Big Ten in quarterback rating (158.0), fourth in passing yards (1,546) and third in touchdowns (12).
Scheelhaase has already tripled his total of passing touchdowns from last year and has surpassed his total yardage by nearly 200 yards in six games.
The senior was also named to ESPN.com's midseason All-Big Ten team. He was the only selection from Illinois to receive the honor.
Defensive MVP: Jonathan Brown, LB
Best Play: V'Angelo Bentley's 100-Yard Kickoff Return
The award for best play comes in the first game of the season against in-state FCS opponent Southern Illinois.
Sophomore defensive back/kick returner V'Angelo Bentley took back a 100-yard kickoff in the third quarter against the Salukis, the Illini's first kick return for a touchdown since A.J. Jenkins' return against Indiana in 2008.
It was also tied for the longest kick return in school history.
Best Coach: Bill Cubit, Offensive Coordinator
Offensive coordinator Bill Cubit has already greatly improved the Illini offense from last year. Cubit, who was the head coach at Western Michigan prior to coming to Illinois, has brought out the best in senior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase.
The Illini have scored 30 points or more in four of their six games thus far. That's a huge step up from last year when they only scored more than 30 points once, that coming in a 44-0 win over Charleston Southern.
Rookie of the Year: Taylor Barton, DB
Despite only playing in two games, redshirt freshman Taylor Barton has already made an impact. Barton is the only Illini with an interception (yes, only one interception all season so far), and he has eight tackles in his two games.
Barton is the rookie of the year for the Illini with a promising career ahead of him.