Just 15 months ago, Brandon Peters chose to transfer to Illinois after two seasons at Michigan. Now, the senior is getting ready for his second season as the starting quarterback for the Illini.
Head coach Lovie Smith had an eye on Peters and made it a priority to get him to the program. What sold Peters initially was being the “face of a Big Ten team” at Illinois, which holds much bigger weight than being the face of a MAC team.
“I loved him last year,” Smith said. “I love him now.”
Peters cemented that status as face of the Illini last season when he dove for a first down in the RedBox Bowl on a fourth down play with the game all but solidified.
“I was just trying to make a play,” Peters said. “I wasn’t trying to be heroic or anything.”
Now, the Indiana native is focused on a strong 2020 season.
He is coming off a campaign in which he threw for 1,884 yards, 18 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 11 games.
With another year in offensive coordinator Rod Smith’s system, an extra 10-15 pounds added to his body frame and a better sense of community in the clubhouse, Peters is ready to lead the Illini on Saturdays again.
“I feel even more part of the team,” Peters said. “I feel a closer bond with everybody on the team having this year under my belt.”
His head coach had even higher praise.
“Experience teaches you an awful lot and Brandon has been in our system,” Smith said. “I feel like every time I’ve talked, I’ve talked about my confidence in what Brandon can do in our system. We want to take another step.”
In Peters’ media session on Wednesday, he mentioned that he had many goals for this season. Among those is working on his completion percentage.
“It was kinda low last year, I think if I can get that up a little bit it will be easier to move the chains,” he said.
Cue Kurt Warner. Yes, Kurt Warner. The Hall of Famer and former Super Bowl champ. Peters worked with Warner in Arizona during the offseason through a mutual friend for multiple workouts over the course of one weekend.
“He was just giving me tips, pointers, things to work on for footwork, accuracy, the mental part of the game,” Peters said.
For a quarterback looking to improve on throwing accuracy, learning from a quarterback who is top-5 in completion percentage (65.5%) in NFL history is a good recipe for success.
Despite the pandemic, the ingredients of additional and healthy weapons in the passing game are there. Another year in the system mixed with Warner’s tips give Peters a good opportunity to thrive in year two as QB1 for Illinois and to continue to climb the radar of NFL scouts.
While most of the world views Illinois underdogs in the season that awaits, Peters, the leader of the team, does not see it that way.
“If you think about anybody outside of the program, they’re going to think of Illinois as an underdog,” Peters said. “From our players’ perspective and coaches’ perspective, we don’t feel like we’re underdogs at all.”