I am an Illinois alum, so this will be a complete in depth preview of Illinois Football. Today we will look at the quarterbacks.
Going into the spring Illinois had 1 scholarship quarterback on the roster, Cam Thomas. Last year, Illinois was one of the worst offensive teams in the country, and a lot of that had to do with poor quarterback play. Thomas, Jeff George Jr. and Chayce Crouch completed 49.6% (I’m not even going to round up) of their passes for a combined 2098 yards, 8 TDs and 19 interceptions. This was good for the 107th best (out of 129 D1 FBS teams) QB play in the nation. Luckily, Illinois is under an offensive overhaul, with 5 new faces in the lineup and a new OC/QB guru Rod Smith (I’ll cover Rod Smith’s significance tomorrow in the Offense Preview).
A.J. Bush – Senior (Grad Transfer: Virginia Tech)
Bush looks like the clear starter for Illinois this year. Bush is a veteran passer who completed 64 percent passes for 99 yards and a TD in 5 games for the Hokies last year. He is the clear leader in the quarterback room and in every interview I have seen, he knows that that is his role on and off the field. Bush knows how to read coverages and makes quick passes. When that is not an option, Bush can take off running. Smith and the Wide Recievers have only good things to say about Bush and the senior quarterback has taken control of the locker room. Something we have not seen at Illinois in a while. Bush understand that this is his last year to play football and he has made every effort to make it successful.
Matt Robinson – Freshman
Matt Robinson has compared himself to Drew Brees, Russell Wilson and Baker Mayfield. That is a big statement for an 18 year old freshman that measures at 6’1″ and 185 lbs. Robinson may only be a freshman but he has the stats to back it up. At JSerra High School in San Juan Capistrano, CA, Robinson threw for 4,470 yards, 42 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. Since camp started in August, Robinson has impressed in his ability to make plays in and out of the pocket.
I don’t think Robinson will get the early season starts this year, but he should be able to learn the system and be a good back up if needed.
Cam Thomas – Sophomore
Thomas is the sole returning player that saw any action in games last year. After George was benched and Crouch moved to tight end, Thomas took over. But it was clear Thomas was not ready. Thomas only completed 42% of his 66 passes for 375 yards, 0 TDs and 5 interceptions. Thomas was however the 3rd best rusher on the team with 233 yards and 1 TD last season. You may see Thomas in designed plays, but with 5-star QB Isaiah Williams coming to Champaign next year, Thomas won’t be earning the starting job.
Cam Miller – R-Sophomore
Cam Miller played in 2 games last year and had 1 rush for 9 yards and a TD. As a walk on there not nothing more you can ask for. As for this year, don’t expect much out of the sophomore. But here is the TD against Ohio State out of all teams.
M.J. Rivers, Drake Davis, Coran Taylor – Freshman
With the new redshirt rules, all three could see game time, late in the season or if Illinois is up or down big in a game. Rivers comes from Texas and is one of the better pocket passers Illinois recruited. Taylor is the best ranked QB, but Robinson has the clear edge in getting a potential start. Davis is a walk-on and will most likely see a red shirt this year, for the entire season. But with Isaiah Williams coming in next year, don’t expect much out of this group of QB’s.