CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Johnny Newton is proving he’s one of the best defensive lineman in the country and the accolades continue to show it as well. The junior was named an Associated Press Midseason All-American First Team selection on Wednesday. Newton is third in the nation in QB pressures with 25, according to Pro Football Focus, eight more pressures than any other Big Ten interior defender. The Florida native is second in the nation in PFF’s defensive stops stat with 21, and tied for the national lead in blocked kicks with two.

Newton has been the core of the Illinois defense all season, leading a unit that has been better as of late. After starting out the season giving up nearly 1,000 yards in the first two games, the Illini have settled in the last two outings, only allowing Nebraska and Maryland to score a combined 44 points. It’s the same amount of points Purdue scored against Illinois last month.

“I feel like people are starting to get even more comfortable in their roles because you know like we have a young team and at the same time we have to forget the young stuff and we just got to go out there and compete and hold up that standard,” Illinois sophomore cornerback Tyler Strain said.

“Those younger guys they didn’t play as much at least coming into the season and so I like to see them grow up and have the success that they’re having,” Illinois defensive coordinator Aaron Henry said. “They know the defense we run. They know the schematics of the defense and at the end of the day they’re just really good football players.”

Illinois hosts Wisconsin for Homecoming Saturday at 2:30 p.m. on FS1.