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Handicapping Illinois’ Quarterback Competition

Who will be the guy going into summer and fall practices?

FightingIllini.com

This could get very interesting.

Illinois has much more depth and competition across the board at every position than it has had in years.

However, everyone has one question going into August: Who will man the most important position on the field for the Illini?

That's a difficult question to answer at this point, considering there's still a lot of time between now and then.

Of course, we know who will be vying for the position. So let's break down each individual and what their chances are, starting with one of the more intriguing options.


Coran Taylor

The Peoria native has a huge hill to climb to take starter reps.

However, watching him in person at the spring game, he seemed to have the firmest grasp of what offensive coordinator Rod Smith asks for in this offense. His connection to Kendall Smith was the best passing display all game.

That does not mean I think he should be the starter quite yet. His accuracy and timing have been suspect in practices and he's more of a bulldozer than his peers running the ball. Less finesse, more brute strength. That's not necessarily a bad thing. His vision and ability to read defenses needs plenty of work. He's still very raw, but very projectable.

More time with Rod Smith and this offensive staff will do wonders for Taylor. By year three, he could very well be in the mix. His ability (or inability) to recognize coverages and time his throws will be paramount to his development.

Chances of starting in 2019: 5%


Matt Robinson

Similar to Taylor, Robinson has some serious athleticism that could keep him in the hunt as the starter this summer into fall.

His running ability is his greatest strength. He's less of a bruiser than Taylor, but more nimble and quick to hit the hole created by his offensive line. He's got some serious wheels that could make defenders look foolish in the open field.

Again, his biggest issue is his passing. Watching the spring game, you couldn't help but notice how unsure he was when delivering a pass. Quan Martin's acrobatic pick was a perfect example of his indecisiveness.

Part of the play was a receiver who didn't come back to the ball. Part was Martin making a fabulous play.

The biggest concern, however, was Robinson double and triple-clutching on his deep passes that ended up underthrown and inaccurate.

It typifies what we've seen from Robinson so far as a passer: maddening inconsistency.

One pass, it's a beautiful, deep over-the-shoulder throw to a streaking wide receiver for a huge chunk gain. The next, it's a quick pass that's thrown behind the receiver and gets intercepted or knocked down.

Consistency in the passing game will truly determine if Robinson can take that next step and grab the reigns from some other talented options.

One thing I do want to mention is that many have made a big deal about his size. At 6-foot, he's not exactly a prototypical passer in today's game. As far as I've seen, though, it hasn't limited him really, it's just more of a timing and confidence issue than anything.

Chances of starting in 2019: 15%


Isaiah Williams

If I had a choice, this would be my pick from Week 3 on.

"One", as his nickname entails, is the long-term answer for this Illini team moving forward.

He's smart. He's fast. He's such an elusive athlete. Incredible running instincts. Stronger arm than people give him credit for. Basically the perfect fit for Rod Smith’s offense. He'll certainly use him no matter who wins the job.

His two biggest issues: size and experience.

The first, there's really nothing to do except get him in Lou Hernandez's hands and build up body strength. If he puts on size similar to Kyler Murray or Nathan Scheelhaase, we could have a serious Big Ten quarterback on our hands. The second should come this year. Thanks to the NCAA, freshmen can play up to four games without officially redshirting if that’s the route the staff decides to go.

I expect this offense to utilize one of the more talented players Illinois has ever had, one way or another.

Personally, I'm honing in on Eastern Michigan as the game for "One" to cement his status as the Illini's poster child.

Chances of starting in 2019: 50%


The Field

A grad-transfer quarterback is almost a guarantee at this point. Isaiah Williams won't make it to campus until the summer. One month is a lot to ask for him to pick up the offense and roll out the gate day one. And Taylor and Robinson are too raw with too many questions about what they bring to the table.

So, therefore, that table is set for another AJ Bush-type to come in and vie for the starting spot.

All indications are that player could be Matt Fink, the transfer from USC with two years of eligibility. It's been reported by the LA Times and Fink's father that he is, indeed, transferring here.

However, there has been no indication from the coaching staff that that is the case.

Usually, there's a lot of hype from several members of the staff and an official announcement from the team on Twitter.

Neither of these things have happened.

Are the LA Times and Fink's own father wrong? I wouldn't think so. The silence from the Illinois staff is deafening.

They have also pursued other options, such as Tommy Stevens from Penn State. The uber-talented backup to Trace McSorley has one year left and wants to make the most of it.

There's also the slim chance that Khalil Tate could be the answer. He's familiar with Smith's scheme. He just graduated, and he brings a skillset to the table that could change the game for this season.

All of these are utter speculation. In the end, it's likely we end up with someone. I'm not going to anoint this unknown entity the bonafide starter yet.

I'm extremely bullish on Williams. I think we have our quarterback of the here and now, and he wears No. 1. Until I know any differently, I'm sticking with that prediction.

Chances of starting in 2019: 30%


You guys already had your takes.

This position is the catalyst to a successful 2019 and beyond. As a staff, Illinois needs to get this right. A bowl game could be within reach.

It's just going to take someone to lead us there. Hopefully, we have our answer by Aug. 31.

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