By Matt Stevens - IlliniGuys Football Writer/Analyst
December 1, 2021
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Doug Kramer’s collegiate career will end with the highest all-conference in his five-year tenure at Illinois.
The Illini center was named a second-team selection by the coaches of the Big Ten Conference on Wednesday when the offensive players awards were announced. Kramer, who was ranked by Pro Football Focus as the seventh-best interior offensive lineman returning to college football in 2021and the seventh best center draft prospect by ESPN analyst Mel Kiper, ended his five-year career by beating Northwestern for the first and only time last Saturday.
Kramer, who battled foot and ankle injury issues for a majority of the 2021 season, will leave the Illini program third in school history in career starts, behind only his teammates Vederian Lowe and Alex Palczewski.
Kramer led an Illini rushing attack from the center spot that was ranked ih in the nation by PFF in terms of its overall run blocking grading system.
“It’s huge for not only me, but for this entire senior class,” Kramer said about ending the losing streak to in-state rival Northwestern following the 47-14 win. “We wanted to leave this place better than we got here and I think by bringing that trophy, The (Land of Lincoln) Hat, we have definitely done that.”
Kramer, a three-time captain of the Illini roster, was consistently mentioned as a go-to offensive leader of the Illinois program throughout the head coach transition from Lovie Smith to Bret Bielema.
“Coach B was a major reason why I stayed here,” said senior center Doug Kramer, who was one of the first seniors last winter to announce he would return to Illinois for his extra season of eligibility. “He’s an unbelievable man off the field and he’s an unbelievable coach on the field. From that first team meeting, I left thinking that’s somebody who I want to play for.”
Kramer grew up an Illini fan and attended games as a child but wasn’t offered a scholarship by Illinois out of Hinsdale (Ill.) Central High School but turned down several other FBS offers to make his way on the Illini roster as a preferred walk-on. Five years later, Kramer is an All-Big Ten selection in his final three years with the program.
“Kramer is critical for us in a two-fold way,” Bielema said in September. “One, he’s very good at what he does. I’ve been around a lot of good centers and he’s as good as I’ve been around. He reminds me of a guy I played with at Iowa named Mike Devlin, who played in the NFL for a long time. Kramer plays well to his pad level, has great balance. He’s kind of like the ol’ weeble-wobble who won’t fall down. He’s just sturdy. But the great thing about him is I think on this football team, there’s two guys who when they speak, the whole team listens: Jake Hansen and Doug Kramer.”
After producing 14th 1,000-yard rushing season in Bielema’s 13-year head coaching career, Chase Brown was honored as an All-Big Ten third-team selection by the league’s coaches. Brown, along with his twin brother and Illini starting safety Sydney, reunited with his mom for the first time in a calendar year before the blowout win over Northwestern. Brown became the 14th Illini in history to pass the 1,000-yard barrier when he totaled 1,005 rushing yards this past season. He ran for 223 yards on 33 carries and one touchdown at then-No. 7 Penn State to help Illinois win the nine-overtime game and joined Howard Griffith (1990) and Rashard Mendenhall (2007) as the only players in program history with multiple 200-yard rushing games in a single season.
Lowe and Palczewski were other Illini offensive All-Big Ten selections for the 2021 season. The All-Big Ten defensive and special teams awards were announced Tuesday with eight Illini honored. Illinois safety Kerby Joseph was named an All-Big Ten first team selection (media) and kicker James McCourt and punter Blake Hayes were each named to the third team (coaches). Safety Sydney Brown, outside linebacker Owen Carney Jr., defensive lineman Jer'Zhan Newton, defensive lineman Keith Randolph Jr., and cornerback Devon Witherspoon all received All-Big Ten honorable mention accolades.
Illini 2021 All-Big Ten Selections
DB Kerby Joseph - 1st-Team by Media; 2nd-Team by Coaches
C Doug Kramer - 2nd-Team by Coaches; Honorable Mention by Media
RB Chase Brown - 3rd-Team by Coaches; Honorable Mention by Media
PK James McCourt - 3rd-team by Coaches
P Blake Hayes - 3rd-Team by Coaches
LT Vederian Lowe - Honorable Mention by Media & Coaches
OL Alex Palczewski - Honorable Mention by Media & Coaches
DB Sydney Brown - Honorable Mention by Media & Coaches
OLB Owen Carney Jr. - Honorable Mention by Media & Coaches
DL Keith Randolph - Honorable Mention by Media
DL Jer'Zhan Newton - Honorable Mention by Media
CB Devon Witherspoon - Honorable Mention by Media
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