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QB1 for Illinois is still the biggest question

Who will take over the reins from Tommy DeVito?

NCAA Football: Illinois at Nebraska Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

In expected Illini fashion, 4-star Texas QB Hudson Card transferred to Purdue (as reported by Pete Thamel of ESPN), adding a star quarterback to Ryan Walters’ Purdue Boilermakers.

Although seen as a longshot to join the Illini in 2023, having a quarterback with 20 games of Division I experience and three years of eligibility would have been an upgrade to Tommy DeVito.

With no quarterbacks on the roster with college game experience and Artur Sitkowski moving to other duties within the program, the Illini need to use the transfer portal to land the 2023 QB1. With DeVito’s waiver still in question, the portal window closing on Jan. 18, and the pool of starting quarterbacks drying up, Bielema & Co. need to move quickly.

There are a few quarterbacks still available who would provide an instant boost.

Luke Altmyer, Ole Miss

NCAA Football: Sugar Bowl-Mississippi at Baylor John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Although Altmyer has limited in-game experience at the college level, he has already visited Illinois. Altmyer is the clear option here. There was reporting of a mutual liking between Illinois and Altmyer, so signs are looking promising.

Altmyer has really only played significant minutes in one game in his two years at Ole Miss, against Big 12 champions Baylor in the Sugar Bowl as a true freshman. Altmyer took over for Matt Corral in the Rebels’ third series, so his 15-of-28 for 174 yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs look better with that caveat than on paper. He also had this beautiful pass when he wound up in a hairy situation.

For the last two seasons, Altmyer has been a part of top-10 offenses at Ole Miss. Lane Kiffin drew up a fast-paced spread offense, and while Altmyer was on the second string, a lot of that playstyle should transition well into Barry Lunney’s quick decision, no-huddle offense at Illinois.

Altmyer is staying with Ole Miss until after the TaxAct Texas Bowl, so I wouldn’t expect a decision from Altmyer until after the game. The early reports, eventual silence from both camps, and Card committing to Purdue could mean something is hopefully brewing.

Others to Think About

NCAA Football: Boise State at Texas El Paso Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports

Hank Bachmeier, Boise State - For starters, orange and blue look good on the guy. As TCR’s Pleas Honeywood and Drew Pastorek discussed on Oskee Talk, Bachmeier has two more years of eligibility left and would be a great transition between DeVito and Swanson or Leary. Bachmeier has thrown for 6,605 yards, 41 TDs, and 19 INTs. Bachmeier left Boise State in September when Tim Plough was fired as OC and still has to find a team.

Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina - I have mentioned McCall before, and he presents a win-win for all parties involved. Although he only has one year of eligibility left, McCall has an NFL-caliber arm. He has proven it at the G5 level and could upgrade his stock by proving it again at the P5 level. Lunney gets one more year to develop redshirt freshman Donovan Leary and true-freshman Cal Swanson.

Brennan Armstrong, Virginia - Armstrong knows the Illini well and has seen both Bielema and Lunney coach. With only one year remaining, the dynamic passer could play well in Lunney’s system and a strong offensive line blocking for him.

Malik Hornsby, Arkansas - Three-star quarterback out of Texas was offered by Lovie Smith, but chose to sign at Arkansas in the 2020 class. Hornsby was the second-string QB for the Razorbacks and has two years of eligibility left. His high school scouting report showed he is dangerous when used in an RPO and a dynamic run threat with the ability to stretch the field vertically.

Cal Swanson, Illinois - Let me make my point here. Swanson was hand-picked by Barry Lunney and threw for over 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns and his high school profile says he has his eyes aimed downfield, has pocket presence, and can move the chains with his legs. We are also deciding between largely unproven quarterbacks like Altmyer and (previously) Hudson Card to take over for Illinois.

What is to say that Illinois didn’t find a diamond in the rough?