CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Bryce Barnes knows he has a big opportunity in front of him Saturday at Minnesota. The Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley grad is doing his best to take it all in stride though, keeping his normal routine leading up to game day. With All-American Johnny Newton sidelined for the first half against the Gophers after getting ejected for targeting in the second half of the Wisconsin game, Barnes’ number will be called to take on a much bigger role. Normally the 6-foot-2, 280-pound defensive tackle relieves Newton, now he’s ready to take his place for a half.

“In the back of my head it’s a huge moment for me because Johnny’s out for the first half so do I get a little more psyched up and pumped? Yeah, 100 percent but at the end of the day it’s football and I’ve got to do my job to help everyone else on the defense and then hopefully ultimately get a W.”

Barnes has had a memorable final season with the Illini. The former walk-on has recorded 14 tackles this fall, matching his four previous years combined. Playing alongside Newton has provided plenty of memorable moments as well, all while repping his Central Illinois roots.

On Wednesday, Newton was named a national semifinalist for the Lombardi Award. The annual honor recognizes the top college football lineman. Newton is the only defensive tackle on the list remaining, with the Florida native tied for the national lead in quarterback pressures among defensive tackles with 31, according to PFF. He has played more snaps than any other Power-5 defensive tackle with 62.75 per game.

Lombardi Award Semifinalists
OT Joe Alt, Notre Dame
OG Cooper Beebe, Kansas State
TE Brock Bowers, Georgia 
DE Jonah Elliss, Utah 
OL Olu Fashanu, Penn State
OT Taliese Fuaga, Oregon State
DE Laiatu Latu, UCLA
DT Jer’Zhan Newton, Illinois
ILB Danny Stutsman, Oklahoma
EDGE Dallas Turner, Alabama
EDGE Jared Verse, Florida State
OG Zak Zinter, Michigan