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Illinois Football Roster Review: QBs

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A look at the quarterbacks for the Fighting Illini in 2017

NCAA Football: Illinois at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

It’s the first day of training camp for Illinois, and it’s finally time to take a look at the roster heading into 2017. It’s the law that every football roster review starts with QB, so let’s jump right into it.

Departures

Wes Lunt

Year Games Played Comp Att Pct Yards TD Int Avg Yards/Pass Avg Yards/Gm
Year Games Played Comp Att Pct Yards TD Int Avg Yards/Pass Avg Yards/Gm
2014 8 153 241 0.63 1763 14 3 7.3 220.4
2015 12 270 481 0.56 2761 14 6 5.7 230.1
2016 8 127 232 0.55 1376 8 3 5.9 172

Lunt, who signed as a undrafted free agent by the Vikings, was cut recently and is currently a free agent. Some teams may be scared by his injury history, but he has an NFL quality arm and should find a place on an NFL roster, or at least a practice squad this year.

Returning Players

Chayce Crouch - #7 JR 6’ 4”, 230 lbs

Crouch Passing Stats

Year Games Played Comp Att Pct Yards TD Int Avg Yards/Pass Avg Yards/Gm
Year Games Played Comp Att Pct Yards TD Int Avg Yards/Pass Avg Yards/Gm
2015 10 15 34 0.44 160 2 1 4.7 25.6
2016 4 18 32 0.56 249 1 1 7.8 106.3

Crouch Rushing Stats

Year Games Played Att Yards Avg/Carry TD Long Avg/Gm
Year Games Played Att Yards Avg/Carry TD Long Avg/Gm
2015 10 25 96 3.8 1 19 9.6
2016 4 29 176 6.1 2 28 44

Chayce Crouch is your starting QB this season. Crouch showed a lot of promise coming off the bench against Purdue, especially running the football, picking up 137 rushing yards and two TDs to go along with 142 passing yards. Unfortunately, Crouch was injured the next week against Rutgers ending his 2016 season.

Having a dual-threat QB like Crouch gives offensive coordinator Garrick McGee a larger playbook to work with. Expect to see a lot of option reads and quarterback runs this season. Lovie Smith has expressed his desire in the past to establish a power running game at Illinois. Having a good running option at QB — one that is 6-4/230 — is a great place to start.

Crouch has not played a full four quarters in a game for the Illini. There isn’t much data to make a judgement on how effective Crouch can be leading an offense for an entire season, or how effective he can be in the passing game. Defenses will also be better prepared to face a dual-threat QB when facing the Illini, but in the little amount of time Crouch was on the field, he showed plenty of promise. He has every chance in 2017 to help the Illinois offense take a big step forward.

Jeff George Jr. - #3 SO 6’ 3”, 215 lbs

Jeff George Jr. Passing

Year Games Played Comp Att Pct Yards TD Int Avg Yards/Pass Avg Yards/Gm
Year Games Played Comp Att Pct Yards TD Int Avg Yards/Pass Avg Yards/Gm
2016 5 38 94 0.40 470 4 5 5 94

Jeff George Jr. started four games for the Illini last year after starting the year as the third-string QB. He threw two touchdowns in the Illini win over Michigan State, but he looked overmatched more often than not in 2016. George, who is not a mobile QB, only completed 40% of his passes and never looked comfortable in the pocket. Let’s note that no Illini QB seemed comfortable last year behind an inconsistent offensive line.

He will back-up Crouch this year, and his game experience last season should help if — and when — he is called upon this season. He played poorly last season, but he did manage to keep the turnovers relatively low considering his completion percentage. With an improved Illini rushing attack, he could succeed as a game manager if he is thrown into the fire in 2017.

Cam Miller - #14 RS FR 6’ 1”, 215 lbs

Red-shirted in 2016 as a walk-on.

Trenard Davis - #15 SO 6’ 0” 195 lbs

Davis played kickoff coverage in one game against Rutgers last season, burning his redshirt. He has practiced at safety and wide receiver for Illinois in addition to quarterback, and he has been working at returning punts this spring. He’s a very versatile player who should see the field often on special teams, but it’s unlikely we see him taking snaps.

New Arrivals

Cam Thomas- #10 FR 6’ 2” 190 lbs, Chicago Heights, IL

Thomas is a 3 star dual-threat QB from Marion Catholic High School. ESPN ranked him as the #21 recruit in the state of Illinois, while Rivals and 247 Sports had him at #29 and #30, respectively. He ran on the track team in high school, and has a lot of speed to offer.

He will need to add weight to help handle playing in the Big Ten, and he will likely redshirt this season, but if Illinois has injury issues at QB (knocks on biggest piece of wood I can find) he could be the third-string option.

Charlie Reinkemeyer - #12 FR 5’ 11” 175 lbs, Lake Forest, IL

A walk-on QB from Lake Forest Played baseball and football in High School.

Connor Kelly - #16 FR 6’ 2” 190 lbs, Chicago, IL

Another walk-on QB.

Final thoughts

Illinois has struggled the last couple of seasons with a non-mobile Wes Lunt and a bad offensive line, and the Illinois offense suffered along with them. Having a true running threat taking the snap could help the Illinois offense have less stalled drives this season, and hopefully, far fewer three-and-outs. We haven’t seen much of Chayce Crouch yet, but Illinois will depend on him playing a huge role as they look to revamp the offense in 2017. If Crouch can be an average Big Ten QB, the Illini may not actually be half-bad on offense, but more on that in later previews.

For now, everyone pray, hope, or make a sacrifice to please the gods, so Chayce Crouch doesn’t get injured.