The outlook for Illini football in the coming years changed significantly when Lovie Smith hired Cory Patterson. Some were critical of the hire, others ecstatic that Lovie was doing his best to strengthen the St. Louis pipeline, where so much talent was being produced in recent years.
With the signings of Isaiah Williams and Shammond Cooper, Patterson showed he was worth his contract. Since then, Patterson has continued to impress on the recruiting trail and garnered positive reviews from spectators at practice. While IW appears to be the quarterback of the future, the QB picture changed significantly for the Illini on June 19, when former Michigan Wolverine Brandon Peters announced he would use his remaining two years of eligibility in Champaign.
Let’s take a look at “the other guys” — the three quarterbacks on the Illini roster who are not the freshman stud from Trinity Catholic.
(He’ll be a different Guy We’re Hyped to See. Don’t worry.)
It’s anybody’s guess who will start the majority of the season, but Peters’ talent and experience at another major school and his reported arm talent will certainly give him an advantage over Williams, at least toward the beginning of the season. Although Peters saw limited time on the field in Ann Arbor, he did play a significant amount of time during the 2017 season. In six games, he threw for 672 yards with four TDs and a pair of interceptions. He completed just over 52 percent of his passes that season.
These numbers certainly don’t jump off the page to anyone, but Peters was considered a big-time recruit coming out of Avon High School in Indiana (home of Illini Volleyball’s very own Beth Prince). At 6-foot-4, he was a four-star recruit and chose Michigan over Arkansas and Iowa, among others. While reviews have been mixed thus far in training camp, it seems clear that he will be competing with IW for the day 1 starting job.
Practice ends with the best drive of the last three days. Brandon Peters leads the #2 offense right down the field for a 55-yard TD drive. Finishes it off with a back-shoulder TD throw to Josh Imatorbhebhe on third and an inch from the 11. Gutsy call, Rod.— Robert (@ALionEye) August 4, 2019
In fact, I would bet that Peters probably wins the starting job from day one, based on his experience and size over IW. I’m not sure how long that will last, but that is my gut feeling. Again, you never know what can happen in training camp.
Matt Robinson, I think most would agree, is the second-most likely candidate to get serious playing time after Brandon Peters (again, we are not including IW here). Robinson was a recruit that Rod Smith brought to Champaign when Lovie hired him. A California native, Robinson was a three-star recruit coming out of J Serra Catholic High School. He stands at 6-foot-1 and weighs in around 185, per the roster.
Robinson saw a small amount of playing time last year when the Illini were being seriously blown out or AJ Bush and MJ Rivers were fighting injuries. Needless to say, the stats were not overly impressive. Robinson appeared in few games (including Western Illinois, Penn State, and Purdue) and was 3-of-6 for 11 yards and an interception. He also rushed for 24 yards on eight attempts.
According to Illini reporters, Robinson seems to show a good amount of presence in the run game and would be more of a dual-threat option compared with Brandon Peters. However, he has yet to prove it on the field, albeit with a very limited amount of playing time. I, and I think most Illini fans, feel that the primary battle for the day one starting job will be between IW and Peters. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Robinson was able to make a run for the starting job, too. He certainly fits the Rod Smith offensive mold better than Peters, and he already has a year in the system under his belt.
Matt Robinson deep ball to Trevon Sidney who puts the shakes on the secondary.— Isaac Trotter (@isaac_trotter2) August 4, 2019
Sidney has had the best camp of any #Illini receiver.
I actually really liked the recruitment of Coran Taylor, a Peoria High product. Quincy Patterson, a Chicago native who chose Virginia Tech over Illinois, garnered most of the hype during that recruiting cycle, but I really liked the looks of Taylor’s tape. While it is clear his arm may not have been Big Ten ready, what was obvious was his playmaking ability. As a senior, he threw for 1,500 yards and ran for another 1,000. As a junior, he led Peoria to the 5A state title and accounted for over 3,200 yards of offense. Not too shabby. Taylor is 6-2 and can run pretty damn well.
A close friend of mine who worked in sports radio told me at the time that he liked Taylor’s tape better than Patterson’s. Neither player is proven at this point, but I think this goes to show that Taylor can at least be a role player or figure within the program, if for no other reason than to keep the Peoria pipeline strong.
While he redshirted his freshman year, it is unclear if Taylor will see any playing time this year. Save serious injuries to the other three QBs, it seems unlikely to me. He is certainly an upgrade over a player like Cam Thomas, but he is simply an unknown at this point. I do believe that he has a great deal of potential to develop, but if he is seeing the field in 2019, it is probably not a great sign for the Illini.