Illinois football honors players at awards banquet -

Illinois football honors players at awards banquet

Champaign, IL ( -- The Fighting Illini announced its 2008 team award winners at its 107th annual football banquet Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

Sophomore receiver Arrelious Benn was named the Most Valuable Player and tight end Michael Hoomanawanui earned the Most Improved Player award.

Benn caught 67 passes for 1,055 yards and three touchdowns. He also returned 20 kickoffs for 398 yards and 15 punts for 114. He ended the season with 1,668 all purpose yards. In 2008, Benn tallied five games with at least 100 receiving yards and two more with at least 90. This included four consecutive 100 yard receiving games. On Oct. 11, he caught 12 passes for 181 yards against Minnesota.

Hoomanawanui recorded 25 catches for 312 yards with two touchdowns for Illinois. In his first two seasons he combined for seven total catches.

Freshmen Jason Ford, running back, and Corey Liuget, defensive tackle shared the award for Rookie of the Year.

Ford started two games and ran for 294 yards on 81 rushes. He led the team with eight touchdowns. On Oct. 18 against Indiana, Ford ran for 172 yards and scored three times.

Liuget recorded 26 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Five of his tackles were behind the line of scrimmage and he recovered two fumbles.

Junior quarterback Juice Williams was named the Outstanding Offensive Back in his third season as Illinois' signal caller. Williams passed for 3,173 yards with 22 touchdowns to 16 interceptions. He ran for 719 yards with five scores on the ground.

Senior linebacker Brit Miller, who replaced J Lehman as Illinois' defensive leader, won the Outstanding Linebacker award. Miller recorded 132 total tackles, 15 for a loss. He also tallied six sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception. On Sept. 13 against Louisiana-Layfayette, Miller returned a fumble 27 yards for a touchdown.

Illinois honored 17 seniors and other players who received accolades were defensive end Derek Walker (Outstanding Defensive Lineman) and cornerback Dere Hicks for Outstanding Defensive Back. The 2008 team captains were Benn, Williams, Miller and defensive lineman David Linquist.

Defensive back Nate Bussey and kicker Matter Eller shared the Outstanding Special Team Award.

Offensive lineman Ryan McDonald won the Scholar-Athlete Award. With a 3.83 GPA, McDonald received his undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering and is working toward a master's degree.

Illinois finished with a 5-7 record and failed to earn a trip to a bowl game after playing in the Rose Bowl in 2007.

Adam Musto is a Journalism student at the University of Illinois

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