Looks Like University Of Illinois - Brandon Peters


Robert
Jun 19, 2019
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17 Comments

Remember the day Wes Lunt picked Illinois? Remember how jacked we all were? Well, Wes Lunt II just picked Illinois. And the fanbase - beaten down by the last five (ok 25) years - is nowhere near as jacked. For good reason. But, um, this kid is pretty good at throwing footballs. He just might not fit. This is going to be a long one, so buckle up.

Wes Lunt, he of the giant arm (you might recall I made the same "I mean, he doesn't have a GIANT ARM it's just that he can throw the ball really fast and far but if he did have a giant arm that would be funny" joke 15 times), was a four-star quarterback from Rochester who left the state to play for Oklahoma State. And as a freshman, he won the starting job. But then he got injured after the first three games, lost the starting job, and by the end of the next spring, he was the third string quarterback as Oklahoma State had moved on to Clint Chelf and JW Walsh. He chose to transfer to Illinois.

Brandon Peters, he of a giant arm (it's not really a GIANT ARM), is a four-star quarterback who left the state of Indiana to play for Michigan. As a redshirt freshman, he won the starting job for the final four games of the season. But then he got injured, lost the starting job, and by the end of the next season, he was the third string quarterback as Michigan had moved on to Shea Patterson and Dylan McCaffery. He chose to transfer to Illinois.

I mean, it's kind of eerie. Go watch this interview with Peters. Could he BE any more like Wes Lunt? It's like he's Lunt's younger brother or something. The same steady (some might say flatline) personality, the same "can you speak up it's hard to hear what you're saying" interview style, everything.

So, where does that lead my thoughts? I'm sure nearly every Illini fan ends up in the same place: "The last time we saw Wes Lunt, he was running Garrick McGee's (supposed) run-first offense, and a big-armed pocket QB running a run-first offense is just not a good fit". Because it wasn't a good fit. Lovie arrived and said "we're going to establish the run" and then we tried to establish the run, but it's really hard to establish the run when the read option really only has one option.

(Yes, I will get to the "Peters can probably run a little better than Lunt" part of this. As well as the "Peters doesn't really have Lunt's ability to throw 25 yards back across the field to the opposite sideline on a rope" part. Just not yet. I'm on a roll here.)

As you probably know, I have one goal with Illini football. Establish one thing, recruit to it for five years, see where you're at. We've spent the last few decades doing the "sign Aaron Bailey, switch to a pocket-QB offense a few days after Signing Day" thing. It's always the next thing that's going to fix us. I simply long for "here's who we are" followed by recruiting to that thing.

This is not that. This is recruiting Kurt Kittner and asking him to do what AJ Bush did last season. Kurt Kittner was our best quarterback of the last 25 years, but Kittner couldn't have done what Juice did in the Locksley offense. Nor could Juice have done what Kittner did in the Turner offense. You establish your offensive identity and then you recruit to it. Neither Juice nor Kittner would have performed well in the other guy's offense. They were both recruited to do a specific thing.

As was Isaiah Williams (not Juice - The One). Rod Smith becomes the offensive coordinator, and Rod Smith adds both AJ Bush (for 2018) and Isaiah Williams (for 2019 and beyond) last spring. That's an offensive coordinator choosing the type of QB he wants to utilize. (And, it should be noted, Rod Smith added Matt Robinson for the 2018 class within a few days of getting the OC job. He's added three QB's, all more for their feet than their arm.)

Now he's added a throwing QB. With a GIANT ARM. (Actually, going back to the GIANT ARM joke over and over is probably getting you a bit lost. When I compare Peters to Lunt, it's because both QB's have most every throw in their arsenal but might not be able to run the read-option stuff. Juice had a rocket launcher but accuracy and touch were the issues. Kittner didn't have Lunt's tight spiral fastball but his touch was insane. Peters probably doesn't have Lunt's laser beams either but might throw a much better deep ball and his release is just as effortless. All have their strengths and weaknesses, but when we group them in two categories, Juice and AJ Bush and Matt Robinson and Isaiah Williams fall in the "plus feet" category and Kittner and Lunt and Peters fall in the "plus arm" category.)

Can Rod Smith win with a "plus arm" guy? I'm not sure. The 2016 offense still haunts me (not Rod Smith, but stay with me). Lunt would turn, put the ball in the tailback's belly, and no one in the stadium thought he would keep it. That defensive end he's supposed to "read" on a "read option" wouldn't ever consider the possibility that the QB was going to keep it. The QB was never, ever going to keep it. As a result, the running lanes just weren't there. I'll quote the quote I've written here 25 times: in a spread offense, when your QB can't run, you're playing 10 on 11 football.

OK, I've finally arrived at what I promised to get to. Can Peters run? He's certainly not Matt Robinson or Isaiah Williams - short, fast QB's who provide some slot receiver-like "he's in open space now - watch out" fears for defensive coordinators. But he might be, say, MJ Rivers, who was a throwing quarterback but could at least keep you honest with his feet from time to time. Rivers didn't light anyone up with his feet last year - 49 carries for 65 yards (keep in mind that number includes 11 sacks) - but he would at least pull it and run (something Lunt never did).

I think we saw the limitations of the offense with an MJ Rivers at the helm in the Maryland game. Rivers got the start and ran it 8 times for 23 yards (2.9 ypc) as the offense bogged down. The coaches put in AJ Bush in the second half, he snapped off that 13 yard run, and the offense looked different the rest of the game. As I recall, I wrote at the time that Corbin's 70 yard touchdown on the next drive was specifically related to the defense thinking Bush might keep it. Bush won the job back in that second half and started for the rest of the season.

Maybe I put too much weight in moments like that - maybe my "SEE??" at that 13 yard run was over-emphasized - but that's the reason I'm so "a QB in this offense HAS to be a runner or it all breaks down". Corbin could find no holes in the first half against Maryland with Rivers under center, we put in Bush, he rips off one run, the defense has to stay honest, and Corbin breaks off a 70-yard touchdown. (Rivers was also 3 for 13, so nothing was keeping the defense honest).

Can Peters keep the defense honest? I really don't know. I did some research and found this quote from when Peters was in the Elite 11 quarterback camp back in 2015:

As a player, meanwhile, Peters simply does not get enough credit for his athleticism. "He's a freak," (former NFL quarterback Trent) Dilfer said, calling him likely the best overall athlete in the competition. That doesn't always show up during instruction, but this will be evident during the 7-on-7 events later this week. In my eyes, Peters is a tent-pole quarterback for Jim Harbaugh and Michigan -- the sort of player the new staff can build a program around.

Two things:

1. No one ever called Wes Lunt and athletic freak, so no, he's not "I'm never going to run" Wes Lunt. I'm going to totally regret taking that angle by the end of this post.

2. He wasn't a tent-pole quarterback for Jim Harbaugh at Michigan. He fell well short of that, they moved on, and now Peters is transferring to Illinois.

Why did he fall well short? Well, as unfair as it probably was, it was the Outback Bowl on January 1, 2018. Michigan began the season with Wilton Speight as the starting QB and John O'Korn as the backup. Peters was the redshirt freshman third-string guy. Speight got injured, O'Korn was ineffective, so after Michigan was absolutely destroyed by Penn State, Peters was named the starter. He led them to wins against Rutgers, Minnesota, and Maryland before getting injured in a loss at Wisconsin. Healthy again, he regained the starting spot for their bowl game against South Carolina.

Where he was... ineffective. I actually watched that Outback Bowl and Michigan choked it away. They led 19-3 late in the third quarter when South Carolina scored to make it 19-9. Peters fumbled on the third play of the next drive and South Carolina scored in one play to make it 19-16. Michigan's drive stalls, they punt, South Carolina scores again to go up 23-19. Michigan is driving, down to the South Carolina 5, and Peters... throws an interception in the endzone. Ballgame.

That's probably enough to lose the starting job at Michigan. They had signed Christian McCaffery's little brother (the #5 QB in his class), they got 5-star Shea Patterson to transfer from Ole Miss, and by the time the next season starts, Brandon Peters is the third string QB (as a sophomore). This spring he announced a transfer, yesterday he announced it would be Illinois.

All of that to say... I don't really know what to think. After starting four games for Michigan, Harbaugh & Co decided that he wasn't the future and immediately grabbed Shea Patterson from Ole Miss (and an eligibility waiver). It's the spring of Peters' redshirt freshman year and he's already passed over. He stuck around to compete in the fall, found himself falling as far as fourth string, and now he's out. That suggests a player who had his shot and proved to not be a Big Ten quarterback (see: O'Korn, John).

But he can also effortlessly throw this pass without having to wind up and launch it.

Image from Gyazo

And he can zip one underneath like this. I criticized MJ Rivers' throwing motion quite a bit (for leaning over to throw like a relief pitcher), but this clip of Peters below is just "plant your feet and zip it". 3rd and 9, pass rush coming, calmly step up into the pocket and throw for a first down:

Image from Gyazo

Just from throwing mechanics and footwork, you can see why he was a top-100 recruit in high school. College coaches don't look at high school stats. They look for quarterbacks who throw the ball effortlessly. They will then take that and build a college quarterback.

Jim Harbaugh took that, attempted to build a college quarterback, and discarded it. Lovie Smith is picking that up and placing it into an offense that asks the quarterback to run. If he's the "athletic freak" that Trent Dilfer said he was, maybe it works? If he's Wes Lunt, Lovie likely moves on to Isaiah Williams sooner rather than later.

The biggest plus here, for me: we are no longer going into the season with three freshman quarterbacks. The plan was to go into the season with a junior, a sophomore and some freshmen, but the junior (Cam Thomas) and the sophomore (MJ Rivers) both left. Three freshmen is a dangerous no matter who you are, so adding a fourth-year junior (with a GIANT ARM) is huge. The fact that he graduated early and has two years of eligibility is a big plus. If nothing else, he's upperclassman cover until one of the guys with (FR) behind their name gets a (JR) behind their name.

Tom Cruises. For me, the comp here is still 2016 Lunt. Pro QB in a dual QB offense. That went... poorly the first time. If Peters can be more like MJ Rivers, it's a step forward (run enough to keep people honest), but it's still not what AJ Bush (or, hopefully, Isaiah Williams) provides in this offense.

Bottom line, the perfect transfer quarterback for this offense would have been Khalil Tate, and Peters isn't Khalil Tate. He's a different type of QB than we've been recruiting, and we're now going to attempt to shoehorn him into this system. I'm not sure that will go well. BUT, he does have better mechanics than anyone we've had since Wes Lunt, so maybe Rod can build something from that. I'm skeptical, but hopeful. Always hopeful.

Brandon Peters - a hopeful three Tom Cruises.

Comments

DB50 on June 19 @ 02:22 PM CDT

If Peters is the starting QB on Oct. 12th, it could be very, very interesting!

DGMac on June 19 @ 03:14 PM CDT

Robert -- would love your thoughts on this observation. Early last season, with Bush banged up and Rivers starting, we saw a lot of two-back backfields with Corbin and Epstein. With that set, there were some option looks that involved not so much a QB keeper (though perhaps a little as a third option), but a decision on which RB gets the ball (and also some straight up fakes / counters). I recall some decent ground game success with that set. Epstein was hurt for the Maryland game -- if he's healthy and they can run the two-back set, is it a different story for Rivers? More to the point, can the two-back set with both Corbin and Epstein (who are both good receivers too (particularly Epstein)), plus a legit throwing threat, open up enough running lanes to make a Peters-led offense go?

I'm still hoping Williams bursts onto the scene and can win the job, if not immediately, at least early. But as you said, having Peters and his experience is very helpful regardless of when Williams is ready.

Robert on June 20 @ 06:43 AM CDT

Any offense can be designed around roster talent. So yes, if Peters is the guy, you might see Rod Smith get his “options” from some two back sets or maybe some RPO’s (Run Pass Option). Football has evolved and everyone is “multiple” now.

But you can still read recruiting. Eli Peters picked Illinois under Cubit and enrolled early, Cubit was then fired and Lovie hired, Peters spent one spring here under Lovie and then transferred because of the offense. And that was McGee’s offense which recruited guys like MJ Rivers who were more throwers than runners. Sure, they could have designed the offense around what he could do, but he knew what kind of offense they really wanted to put together. So he transferred.

Or just look at the recruits since Rod took over. (Rivers was a McGee guy, remember). Rod added Matt Robinson, then AJ Bush, then Isaiah Williams. All three are what I’d call open field runners. Their plus attribute is turning 3 yards into 23 yards. And that’s not Peters.

So if you have a square peg and a round hole, you can still carve the hole to accept the peg. But any OC would prefer to just have a round peg.

thumpasaurus on June 20 @ 09:42 AM CDT

Just because you CAN tweak the design of the offense to accommodate a different type of player, doesn't mean (a) there's no adjustment period (b) it will result in an effective offense

John Case on June 21 @ 12:47 PM CDT

Depends on the Olinemen. We know they can run block. Can they pass protect? If they can, he will have the opportunity to show how successful he can be. Not to mention, those 2 tackles will move up in the draft.

thumpasaurus on June 19 @ 04:04 PM CDT

I'm always hearing about how he's faster than you think, but I haven't seen any game film that demonstrates that. If he ended up being a Scheelhaase-level runner, I think even his family would be shocked.

Here's hoping Peters can bring a lot to the team while Williams starts.

Also...brace yourself.

Nashvegas Illini on June 20 @ 08:30 AM CDT

Even if he's faster, he's 6'5. I'm scared he's gonna get his head taken off.

Groundhogday on June 20 @ 02:04 PM CDT

Nate was a terrific runner. Some programs recruited him as a safety. I can't imagine Peters will be comparable to Nate as a runner.

Peters may be fast, but if he isn't elusive that speed won't be very useful. We'll see...

grantskoch on June 19 @ 04:32 PM CDT

Robert - Your comparisons with 2016 got me thinking: even if Peters running the 2019 R. Smith offense vs. Lunt running the 2016 McGee offense wouldn't the assumed better O-Line and playcalling really elevate things?

Nashvegas Illini on June 20 @ 08:37 AM CDT

Good point but this is all on Rod Smith. He got his O line coach and got his raise. He told MJ that he wasn't good enough and that Illinois would be looking for another quarterback. So now he gets his other QB but he's more of a passer than a runner. Can Rod Smith adjust the offense? I know his primary mentor Rich Rod couldn't do it. But he also coached at Indiana with Kevin Wilson and Kevin did a great job last yr at O State with Dwayne Haskins.

Groundhogday on June 20 @ 02:04 PM CDT

They didn't push out MJ. He had academic problems.

Chukwuwumba on June 20 @ 09:50 AM CDT

How about Blake Barnett as a comp? USF qb. 6’5”. Highly ranked pro style, ran the option to a certain degree. Seems like Illinois had to change defensive game plan last year, where they were ignoring him, then had to at least respect him. Hopefully there will be enough respect from Peters running and passing to open up main running game.

John Case on June 20 @ 03:37 PM CDT

My take is you basically picked up the starting Michigan QB for his junior and senior year Other than the fact that they stole a QB from Ole Miss, thats really the case. And don't tell me he was the third string. I don't buy that for obvious reasons.

Robert on June 20 @ 04:47 PM CDT

Some Michigan people believed that Peters was fourth string this spring. Here's a snippet from a Michigan article where Harbaugh didn't even mention Peters:

Prior to the start of spring practice, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh didn't mention Peters among the quarterbacks in what he called a wide-open battle at the position. With Patterson as the obvious frontrunner as last season's returning starter, Harbaugh warned not to make any projections in March and said redshirt sophomore Dylan McCaffrey and redshirt freshman Joe Milton were in the running.

"There's no possible way Shea Patterson will be able to put his feet up, in my opinion," Harbaugh said. "He's got serious competition there with Dylan and Joe right now. Will be a fun spring."

John Case on June 21 @ 12:41 PM CDT

I understand. My point is you are getting a kid good enough to start games at Michigan as a freshman. You are getting him for his junior and senior year. But for the fact that a QB transferred in from Ole Miss, he may have been the starter last year. But when that wasn't the case, you go younger. How many higher rated QB's has Illinois had the last 25 years than Peters?

ahamm445 on June 20 @ 05:24 PM CDT

The all time greatest player in the nfl was a backup at Michigan, watch out.

skibdaddy on June 20 @ 10:15 PM CDT

Hopefully now the receivers will have someone to accurately throw the ball to them in practice. Perhaps the horrible case of dropsies we've had the last few years will be lessened by having a real qb throwing to them in practice. This is a great signing (even if he doesn't start) because of this reason.

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