By Matt Stevens - IlliniGuys Football Writer/Analyst
July 27, 2022
INDIANAPOLIS -- Alex Palczewski will begin his sixth and final season at Illinois on the 2022 Outland Trophy watch list.
The 6-foot-6, 315-pound offensive lineman is receiving this preseason honor for the second time in his career. According to the Football Writers Association of America, the award is given annually to the nation's best interior lineman by the Football Writers Association of America but offensive tackles are able and have won the award in the past. It is named after John Outland, an All-America lineman at Pennsylvania in the late 1800s. It is the third oldest player award in major-college football behind the Heisman Trophy and Maxwell Award.
Palczewski enters the 2022 season with 52 career starts including 36 at tackle and 16 at guard. Despite being moved inside last season, Palczewski is expected to be back at right tackle this season after starting at the spot in the 2022 Orange-Blue spring game.
“Palcho is having a phenomenal spring. He’s probably one of the guys on this roster who is as game-ready as you can be now,” Illinois offensive line coach Bart Miller said in the spring. “He’s able to move better than he has in a long time and since I’ve seen him. Look, he’s healthy for the first time in a long time. You can see it on the backside cutoff (blocks). You watch the scrimmage and he’s able to get to landmarks now that he was never able to get to last year because of health.”
After trying to quickly recover from a serious knee injury that required reconstructive surgery during the 2020 season, Palczewski started the first seven games of Bret Bielema’s first season as the Illini head coach last season at tackle. It was clear in those seven games that Miller wasn’t thrilled with Palczewski’s lack of explosion coming off this injury and some of what he called “bad habits” he’d learned during his previous years at Illinois that didn’t translate to the fundamentals of what Bielema’s staff wanted to implement.
“Someone has told me that I’m officially the old man now around here,” Palczewski said on March 22. “I already love playing for (Barry Lunney Jr.) because he’s a player’s coach. He looks us in the eyes and tells us what we’re going to do.”
For the final five games at guard in 2021, Palczewski was kicked inside at right guard and was able to provide a veteran presence with the power needed in the Illinois running game throughout that last month of play to earn an honorable mention status in the 2021 All-Big Ten selections.
Palczewski is the fourth Illinois player on a preseason watch list to join Chase Brown Maxwell (POY) and Doak Walker (RB) along with Luke Ford – Mackey (TE) and Calvin Hart Jr. – Butkus Award (LB).
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