CHAMPAIGN — There were two major pieces of news that came out of Illinois’ football program on Monday afternoon, and they were both positive developments.

The first came for a player who is expected to be one of the best at his position in college football while the other concerns a new member of the program hoping to help the Illini take another step in 2023.

(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Defensive tackle Jer’Zahn Newton, often referred to as Johnny, has been named an Associated Press 2023 Preseason All-American.

According to the school, it’s the first time in program history that a player has landed on that list and adds to junior’s growing list of preseason accolades after a breakthrough 2022 season.

After netting 14 tackles for loss and 5 1/2 sacks in 13 games last fall and earning second-team All-American honors, Newton is on a number of preseason first teams along with the watch lists for the Bednarik, Lombardi, Nagurski, and Walter Camp Player of Year Awards.

(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

While he was set in his position on the defensive line, head coach Bret Bielema named his starting quarterback for the Illini heading into the 2023 season.

That will be Luke Altmyer, who is in his first season at Illinois after transferring from Mississippi after his sophomore season, coming to Champaign with three years of eligibility. He’ll be under center when the Illini open the 2023 season against Toledo at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, September 2 at 6:30 p.m.

Mostly playing as a backup for the Rebels in his first two seasons, Altmyer completed 28-of-54 passes for 317 yards with three touchdowns compared to three interceptions. He was a four-star recruit coming out of high school in Starkville, Mississippi.

“I’ve been very impressed by not just Luke’s play on the football field, but how he’s handled things,” said Bielema of Altmyer. “To walk into this environment, to have a lot of people from the outside world think he’s going to be that guy, to stand in front of his team and give cadence as a quarterback to speak in the huddle but also on the sideline and in the locker room, he’s really done a nice job of balancing all that.”