Lovie Smith announced at Monday’s press conference that Illinois will be seeing a change at the quarterback position.
“We have to put the best group together to play football this week,” Smith said. “Some positions you try to stay the course as much as you can, but there is a lot things we aren’t doing right and to make that next step we need to make that change.”
Chayce Crouch has started at quarterback for the first four games of Illinois’ season, leading the Illini to a 2-2 start. Since the beginning of the offseason and throughout spring practices Crouch had been named to the starting position and the team practiced in anticipation of him leading the offense.
Crouch appeared in four games in 2016, completing 18-of-32 passes for 249 yards and one touchdown. His breakout performance came in last season’s game against Purdue when he relieved an injured Wes Lunt and threw for 142 yards and added 137 on the ground, making him the first Fighting Illini QB with a 100-plus yard rushing game since Reilly O’Toole in 2014.
He made his first-career start against Rutgers, where he then suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. This season Crouch was underperforming with 427 total passing yards and four interceptions. Praised for his dual-threat abilities during the offseason, Crouch has managed only 93 yards rushing this season.
Smith said during the press conference that Jeff George Jr. has moved into the top position on the depth chart heading into practice this week. True freshman Cam Thomas will move into the second spot.
George Jr. started four games during the 2016 season, including one win over defending-College Football Playoff semifinalist Michigan State. The first glimpse of George Jr. this season came in the third quarter of Illinois’ 47-23 loss at South Florida after Crouch was benched. George Jr. went on to throw for 211 yards and two touchdowns.
The change for Illinois comes with a lack of production on the receiving end, as both Malik Turner and Mike Dudek have struggled to get involved.
“We watched the film over and over and over, we have been around awhile, training camp, every day,” McGee Said. “It's definitely necessary, it’ll give us an opportunity to push the ball down the field and use all of our weapons.”
Crouch only completed nine passes for 99 yards in Illinois’ loss to Nebraska last Friday night.
“I’ve been told I’m the guy,” said Couch after the game.
Clearly, Crouch is no longer the guy.