Mercilus leads the Big Ten in sacks, sacks per game (1.75)

(CBS) Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus was named a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, given to the nation’s best defensive player.

Mercilus leads the nation in sacks, sacks per game and forced fumbles while ranking fourth nationally in tackles for loss per game. The Akron, Ohio, native has 47 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks, seven forced fumbles and six quarterback hurries. He entered the season with 24 tackles, 6.5 TFLs and two sacks in his two previous seasons.

Mercilus leads the Big Ten in sacks, sacks per game (1.75), forced fumbles and tackles for loss per game (1.75). He already has broken Illinois’ single-season record for forced fumbles and is one shy of tying the Big Ten record. He also is 3.5 sacks away from tying former two-time All-America Simeon Rice’s school season record of 16 sacks.

The other four finalists include Alabama safety Mark Barron, LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne, Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly and Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still.