Illini's Mercilus named Nagurski finalist

Illinois junior defensive end Whitney Mercilus was named one of five finalists for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy on Thursday.

The Nagurski Trophy is awarded to the nation’s top defensive player. Mercilus was joined by Alabama safety Mark Barron, LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne, Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly and Penn State defensive Devon Still as finalists.

Mercilus has 47 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks, seven forced fumbles and six quarterback hurries this season. He has already broken Illinois’ single-season record for forced fumbles and is 3.5 sacks away from trying Simeon Rice’s single-season school record of 16 sacks.

The Nagurski Trophy winner will be announced on Dec. 12.