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2017 Illinois Football Player Reviews: Quarterbacks

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It’s time to review the 2017 Fighting Illini’s performance: Today it’s QBs.

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Illinois Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to a series where we will review the performance of each Illinois player and see what might be in store for the Illini’s future. We start today with a position that Illinois struggled with due to injuries and inconsistent play.

Let’s take a look at the quarterbacks.

Chayce Crouch

Chayce Crouch Passing 2017

Games Played Comp Att Pct Yards TD Int Avg Yards/Pass Avg Yards/Gm
Games Played Comp Att Pct Yards TD Int Avg Yards/Pass Avg Yards/Gm
7 45 91 49% 443 1 4 4.9 63.3

Chayce Crouch Rushing 2017

Games Played Att Yards Avg/Carry TD Long Avg/Gm
Games Played Att Yards Avg/Carry TD Long Avg/Gm
7 54 88 1.6 1 19 12.6

There was hope that Chayce Crouch could turn out to be a serviceable option at QB. He fit the dual-threat mold that offensive coordinator Garrick McGee was looking for, and I thought that this would allow the playbook, especially with the rushing attack, to be further extended over 2016.

Clearly, that didn’t happen for Crouch and McGee. Crouch struggled, and the offense was stagnant.

Crouch started in the first four games for Illinois, but he was then replaced by Jeff George Jr. after he failed to get much going for the Illinois offense. He often looked tentative when dropping back to throw and would hold on to the ball too long. The playbook with Crouch was also rather bland, and McGee was never able to find a way to utilize Crouch’s power rushing abilities.

After being replaced by George Jr., and then later on Cam Thomas, Crouch was moved to be a tight end and occasionally appeared in games, making one reception for seven yards.

He also started the Ohio State game with the other options out with injuries.

Crouch has one more year left with Illinois, but he likely won’t be seeing time under center again with Thomas and George Jr. ahead of him on the depth chart. Not to mention, multiple freshmen QBs will be stepping onto the Illinois campus in the next recruiting class.

Crouch can still be a valuable piece. He could be a TE again next season, where you could imagine some trick plays being put in the playbook with Crouch on the field. He is a large man at 6 feet 4 inches and 230 pounds. Maybe Illinois should consider him at linebacker. Joking... joking.

*Looks at Illinois’ linebackers. Oh. Maybe I’m only half-joking.”

Jeff George, Jr.

Jeff George Jr. Passing 2017

Games Played Comp Att Pct Yards TD Int Avg Yards/Pass Avg Yards/Gm
Games Played Comp Att Pct Yards TD Int Avg Yards/Pass Avg Yards/Gm
7 94 181 52% 1273 7 10 7 181.9

George Jr. saw the most playing time of all the Illini quarterbacks this season. He is by far the best passer with the best arm, even with the slight hitch in his release.

The times that the Illinois offense looked semi-decent were also with George Jr. under center. When he had good pass protection he could find open guys and make throws at a good enough rate to keep the offense moving. George Jr. had seven of the eight passing TDs for Illinois.

(Good lord Illinois only had eight passing TDs)

BUT, the turnovers. George Jr. has a bit of a gunslinger streak in him, and that came back to bite him and Illinois often. Ten interceptions in seven games are far too many. A lot of the interceptions were on plays where George Jr. seemingly didn’t see the defender or thought he could make the impossible throw over him.

Also, the offensive line generally didn’t give George Jr. enough time to makes throws. George Jr. is not a mobile QB and he struggled against pressure from pass rushers.

The accuracy came and went as well for George Jr. He was susceptible to overthrows and misfires with his inconsistency accuracy and mechanics.

That being said, George Jr. was an okay option for Illinois. His performance could have been a lot worse and despite a tough situation being an extremely young offensive line, George Jr. was able to make some throws.

George Jr. will be a junior in 2018 with two years of eligibility left. He could be in the mix for the starting job, but he will more than likely serve as the backup.

Cam Thomas

Cam Thomas Passing 2017

Games Played Comp Att Pct Yards TD Int Avg Yards/Pass Avg Yards/Gm
Games Played Comp Att Pct Yards TD Int Avg Yards/Pass Avg Yards/Gm
4 28 66 42% 375 0 5 5.7 93.8

Cam Thomas Rushing 2017

Games Played Att Yards Avg/Carry TD Long Avg/Gm
Games Played Att Yards Avg/Carry TD Long Avg/Gm
4 52 233 4.5 1 27 58.3

Illinois was hoping to have Cam Thomas take a redshirt year, but as the offense grew more ineffective and the team kept losing games, the coaches decided to give the true freshman quarterback a shot.

Thomas only played in four games due to an injury he picked up in the Purdue game, but in those four games, Thomas showed the fans and the team some flashes.

Thomas is one of the fastest offensive players and is already a huge running threat. He was very effective in designed QB runs. Unlike some other dual-threat QBs, he doesn’t need the help of the option to make plays. He is fast enough to get to the edge and gain yards.

That being said, running the option definitely worked, such as with this inverted veer.

In his first two games (@ Minnesota, vs. Wisconsin), Thomas had 157 yards rushing on 20 carries. His speed from QB is a huge problem for defenses to adjust to.

Passing was a different story for Thomas. Don’t get me wrong, he has a live arm, that is for sure. He was even able to make some really good down the field throws.

However, his accuracy on short and mid-range throws was often poor, but every true freshman QB is going to struggle with accuracy.

What concerns me about Thomas’s struggles is his tendency to miss high — which can lead to interceptions — and his mechanics.

Thomas has a habit when throwing down the field to lean back too much and tuck his elbow in, which cause his throws to have more “hang time” than necessary. This not only telegraphs the release but it can cause huge accuracy issues. It’s much easier to underthrow or overthrow the ball when it has too much air. Also, if the throw doesn’t have a tight enough spiral it can cause a “flailing duck” style throw.

Accuracy and throwing mechanic issues are present in many young QBs, and they can be fixed. Thomas also only played in four games without a great supporting cast around him. He is the favorite to be the starter in 2017, and his running ability is going to be a major threat.

It remains to be seen if he will be the quarterback for Illinois in the long term. He will have to improve on his passing if he wants to keep the job against promising quarterbacks Coran Taylor and MJ Rivers coming into the fold once the class of 2018 arrives.

Thomas will be given every chance in the world, and Illinois fans should be excited to see what he can bring.

Cam Miller

Cam Miller Rushing 2017

Games Played Att Yards Avg/Carry TD Long Avg/Gm
Games Played Att Yards Avg/Carry TD Long Avg/Gm
2 1 9 9 1 9 4.5

Cam Miller is a walk-on QB. Usually walk-ons, especially QBs, never get to see the field but are still incredibly valuable to programs in practice. Cam Miller, however, did get to see the field and have a moment he’ll never forget.

He will likely not see playing time again for Illinois with the added depth at QB on its way, but at least he will always have that TD in the Horseshoe.

Charlie Reinkemeyer

The walk-on freshman took a redshirt in 2017.

Connor Kelly

Kelly is also a walk-on who redshirted in 2017.