Illini fans collectively held their breaths when quarterback Brandon Peters was being checked out by trainers after taking a big hit in the first quarter of the Illini’s season opening win over Nebraska in Week Zero.
It’s been the sophomore transfer from Rutgers, Artur Sitkowski, handling duties under center for the Illini’s win over the Huskers and the 37-30 loss to UTSA — and for the most part, Sitkowski has gotten the job done.
In two games, Sitkowski has thrown for five touchdowns — more than he racked up in any of his three previous seasons at Rutgers. He hans’t thrown an interception in his last seven games dating back to 2019, and while he has displayed somme inaccuracies throwing the ball at times, on occasion he’s shown a nice deep ball and good pocket awareness (he’s only been sacked once).
According to Illini head coach Bret Bielema on Monday, Peters is progressing well and has been medically cleared to resume throwing but has not yet received the OK for contact.
“Brandon is progressing better than we thought he would right now,” said offensive coordinator Tony Petersen.
While it is unclear whether or not Peters will be healthy enough to play in Virginia this weekend, the question of whether or not Peters would assume the starting role after his injury came up.
At Monday’s press conference, Bielema was asked that if Peters was healthy if he would be QB1, and the first-year head coach did not commit to the veteran.
“I think that will be a great conversation when it becomes real,” he said.
The fact that Bielema used these words leads me to believe that:
a) Peters will not return this week.
b) Sitkowski has a legitimate chance to keep the job.
And you can tell the coaching staff and the team have been impressed with Sitkowski so far.
“Art played his butt off to be honest with you,” Petersen said after Saturday’s loss against UTSA, where Sitkowski threw for 266 yards and three touchdowns. “I love that kid and the way he plays.”
“Art was a dog,” said offensive lineman Vederian Lowe in Week Zero.
“He really has a pretty strong presence and awareness,” Bielema has said. “He talks, acts, walks and reacts like a quarterback. I didn’t really have any thoughts about how he was going to handle the moment [against Nebraska]. What I didn’t know was the way the guys were going to react to him...I thought our kids reacted very, very well.”
The Illini seem confident that they can win ballgames with Sitkowski under center — which may be something for Illini fans to get used to.