It’s almost time for Illinois football to get back on the field again in this Friday’s season opener.
After last year’s upset against Wisconsin, quarterback Brandon Peters has been waiting for this time to try and prove everyone wrong once again.
The Illini know that the game will be a challenge, but it’s one they’re eager to face.
“I’m excited for this game,” Peters said. “It’s been a long time since we put on the pads and had an opportunity to compete like this.”
With the late start to the season, the team has had a few extra months to prepare. As the long-awaited first game approaches, there are nerves, but Peters knows he has to control them on the field.
“The best way you can do that is just come into the game prepared, ready to go, knowing what Wisconsin is going to do and expecting them to do some different things,” Peters said. “The game plan is not always going to be clear cut, so being able to adjust on the fly.”
In his second year as an Illini, one of Peters’ biggest goals is to improve his completion percentage and be more consistent overall. Last year, he was ninth in the Big Ten with a 55.3% completion rate.
The Illini know the Badger defense will be a challenge with its strong secondary and returning players. According to Peters, the key to overcoming this starts on the ground.
“We’re going to have to be able to run the ball,” Peters said. “Playing to our strengths would be being able to get the run game going. I think if we get the run game going, it’s going to open up other aspects of our offense.”
Peters has confidence in his offensive line that includes a lot of veteran players, including senior Doug Kramer.
“Doug might be talked about as being a little undersized, but Doug is one of the hardest workers on our team, one of the smartest guys on our team, knows football really well. I think all the other guys on the O-line feed off of that,” Peters said. “The sky’s the limit with the guys we’ve got up front. When it comes to game time we’ve just got to execute.”
Last season, Kramer did not allow a sack in 751 snaps. He has been named to the Phil Steele Preseason All-Big Ten third team, Athlon Preseason All-Big Ten fourth team and the Wuerffel Trophy watch list.
As a captain, Peters has embraced the leadership role that he has on the team and used it as an opportunity to improve both his teammates and himself.
“It’s cool to know that your teammates see you as a leader, as someone that sticks out to them and gives them guidance on the field,” Peters said. “For me, I’ve always tried to be a person that leads by example, does the right thing on and off the field. I’ve tried to work on being a little bit more vocal, but my vocality comes to approaching someone one-on-one — talking about what I want them to do, talking about what they’re seeing and what not.”
As a more reserved personality, Peters has been glad to see his teammates feed off of his approach to things.
With the start of the season quickly approaching, the work of the team during quarantine, over the summer and throughout the past few months will be put to the test.
“For us, it’s about executing,” Peters said. “It’s not really about showing off or anything, but taking what the defense gives us and making the plays that really present themselves.”