Illinois – Jake Hansen, Linebacker, Senior
It’s been an uphill battle for Lovie Smith in Illinois since being hired in 2016, but shaping the defense has been a major focal point for the former NFL Head Coach. Although slightly undersized at just 6-1, 225, Jake Hansen has big-play ability in his skill set that will be sure to gain the attention of NFL scouts as well as NFL playbook knowledge playing under Smith’s system.
As a junior, Hansen forced seven fumbles, leading the nation despite missing the final four games of the season due to injury. The seven moved his career total at Illinois to eight, which is fourth-most in program history. In addition to seven fumbles forced, he also recovered three.
On top of the fumbles, Hansen totaled 72 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks during the 2019 campaign. The stats were enough for him to be named a Butkus Award Semifinalist as well as an All-Big Ten Honorable Mention by both the coaches and the media.
On the week-by-week basis, Hansen was named the Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week following a 24-23 upset over No. 6 Wisconsin, a game that went down as one of the biggest upsets in Big Ten history.
In the game, Hansen forced two fumbles, registered 11 tackles, and rounded out his stat sheet with a sack. The second of Hansen’s forced fumbles came with about 7:15 remaining in the fourth quarter with Illinois trailing 23-14.