CHAMPAIGN — Bret Bielema is correct.
The Illinois soccer coach, who nonetheless hasn’t received or misplaced a sport accountable for the Illini, mentioned this week the quarterbacks will get an excessive amount of credit score for when groups win.
And an excessive amount of blame for when groups lose.
“The quarterback place will get numerous consideration,” Bielema mentioned. “As the pinnacle coach, I’m all the time going to attempt to shoulder that blame for them. However I might actually say the quarterback room isn’t any completely different from every other room. Anytime you possibly can add gamers of worth, in addition to excessive character, that’s going to be nothing however welcomed within the room.”
Illinois will add a quarterback to that room (Rutgers switch Artur Sitkowski) and lose a quarterback in that room (Isaiah Williams shifting to receiver) this summer season.
Making it clear Brandon Peters is the man for Illinois heading into the 2021 season. Not a lot completely different than it was previous to the 2019 or 2020 seasons, with the Michigan switch performing as QB1 for the Illini when he’s wholesome.
Sitkowski will doubtless enter coaching camp because the backup to Peters, however the 6-foot-5, 224-pound native of Previous Bridge, N.J., ought to deliver the identical drop-back potential the 6-5, 220-pound Peters does, together with a strong arm.
Each quarterbacks who began their careers elsewhere within the Large Ten earlier than arriving in Champaign, nevertheless, might want to enhance their accuracy. Sitkowski struggled mightily as a real freshman in 2018, throwing 18 interceptions (together with three in opposition to the Illini in a 38-17 win by Illinois in 2018 out in New Jersey) in comparison with solely 4 touchdowns for the worst workforce within the Large Ten that season.
Peters hasn’t had fairly the interception issues Sitkowski has had in his profession — a good 25 touchdowns and 11 interceptions throughout his stints at Michigan and Illinois. However he solely accomplished 49 p.c of his passes final fall, a dip after he accomplished 55 p.c of his passes in 2019.
If Sitkowski performs in 2021, it means he’s both surpassed Peters along with his play in apply or Peters will as soon as once more battle to remain on the sphere. He missed two video games in 2019 due to two separate concussions and three video games final season after testing constructive for COVID-19.
Therein lies a big-picture situation surrounding Illinois for, effectively, the final 40-plus years. Inconsistent quarterback play has certainly performed a hand in inconsistent outcomes.
Illinois has posted 15 successful seasons since 1980. Illinois began a mixed 10 quarterbacks in these seasons. Nathan Scheelhaase, Juice Williams, Kurt Kittner, Johnny Johnson, Scott Weaver, Jason Verduzco, Jeff Kinney, Jeff George, Jack Trudeau and Tony Eason all have been underneath heart — constantly aside from a number of spot begins for Kinney and Weaver — for a few of the finest Illini groups within the final 40 years.
For comparability’s sake, the just lately accomplished five-year Lovie Smith period noticed 10 quarterbacks begin a sport for the Illini.
Peters, Isaiah Williams, Coran Taylor, Matt Robinson, AJ Bush Jr., M.J. Rivers III, Chayce Crouch, Jeff George Jr., Cam Thomas and Wes Lunt have been all unable to take care of a agency grip on the job for a wide range of causes.
Therefore, a key motive Smith went 17-39 at Illinois and was fired per week earlier than the 2020 season ended.
Which brings us to the present state of this system. Sitkowski may get an opportunity to develop into the man in some unspecified time in the future, but when Illinois needs to reverse a decade-long streak of dropping seasons, a constant Peters all season is the most suitable choice to make that occur.
In any other case, Bielema may need to shoulder much more of the blame.
But when Peters can keep wholesome, enhance his accuracy and effectively run coordinator Tony Petersen’s new offense, then the quarterback is perhaps the speak of the city this fall.
Matt Daniels is the sports activities editor at The Information-Gazette. He will be reached at 217-373-7422 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.