WCIA — Heading into a touch matchup this weekend against Michigan, Illinois need its defense to step up once again this season against the No. 3 Wolverines.

The architect of that dominant defense is getting some recognition for his work, as defensive coordinator Ryan Walters was named a finalist for the Broyles Award. It is given annually to the best assistant coach in the nation. Illinois is first in the country in interceptions, second in total defense, and third in scoring defense.

The whole Illini offensive line is also being recognized as a semifinalist for the Joe Moore Award, with Michigan being the only other Big Ten team nominated.

“It means the world seeing all the work you put in, seeing the rewards, all the work paying off it means so much,” said Julian Pearl.

“Just set the tone, set the physicality, from the first play,” said Isaiah Adams. “Bodies on the floor, knockdowns, dent in the defense. From the very first play we need the offensive line to establish that tempo and that tone.”

Illinois travels to play Michigan on Saturday. Kickoff is 11 a.m. on ABC.