Training Camp 2019 I - The Quarterbacks


Robert
Aug 02, 2019
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6 Comments

There's not much better than settling into your hotel room and knowing you don't have a single thing to do until tomorrow's practice at 10:00 am. I might write 11 posts between now and then (not really). To make things even better, basketball practice is open to the media tomorrow so you'll get Marquez Beason reports followed by Kofi Cockburn reports. I might not stop writing for the next 72 hours.

Which means you should probably go renew that subscription. I suck at talking about subscriptions, but here's a paragraph about it. The deal I make with people is that I'm going to work very hard at my hobby and travel to cover the Illini and if you're a regular reader you can support those efforts by subscribing. It's $24 for a year of unlimited access and if you've never subscribed (or if you've put off your renewal), now is a great time to do it. I promise you there are going to be thousands of words on this website in the next two weeks (on football AND basketball) that you're going to want to read. The subscription process starts here (or, as always, you can just click on that floating ticket). Thanks to all who have subscribed in the past (and will in the future).

This post is going to be 100% quarterbacks. It's really all I watched today - quarterbacks and wide receivers. I can't even remember seeing Keith Randolph or Seth Coleman in uniform - I watched almost zero defense (besides 11 on 11 when both squads are on the field at the same time). I'll write another post tonight that covers all of my practice thoughts, but for now, here's everything you wanted to now about the quarterbacks.

I'll start by saying that I'm going to leave Cam Miller out of this discussion. As a walkon guy I hate to do that but really, he's not part of the battle for the starting job. He did, I should note, get 4th string snaps ahead of Coran Taylor, which is quite notable, but this post will be an evaluation of the four scholarship quarterbacks: Brandon Peters, Isaiah Williams, Matt Robinson, and Coran Taylor.

Perhaps the best way to do this is by attributes. What do you want in a quarterback? Let's pick some random categories and assign a 1-10 value. And please keep in mind, this is one practice. First impressions. These opinions will change significantly over the next few weeks.

Height

Brandon Peters: 9
Isaiah Williams: 3
Matt Robinson: 4
Coran Taylor: 6

This is very clear as soon as you step on the practice field. Brandon Peters is a head taller than everyone else. We knew this, of course, but it's alarming to see. You forget how short our quarterback room has become until you see a Michigan quarterback transfer to Illinois. There was an Indianapolis Colts scout at the practice today, and I'm guessing he asked someone "why does Illinois only have one quarterback?"

Arm Strength

Brandon Peters: 8
Isaiah Williams: 5
Matt Robinson: 4
Coran Taylor: 6

I hesitate to say that Williams has "5" arm strength but thinking back to practices of old, guys like Chandler Whitmer (spring of 2010) and Eli Peters (spring of 2016) could zip it much faster than Williams. He has a serviceable arm with a nice, hitch-free delivery which will only improve over time. But for now, I think "5" is probably the proper grade.

And Peters isn't Wes Lunt (who would absolutely get a 10 here), but he's not that far off. Taller kid, very strong frame, drives the legs and delivers it with zip. Not Juice Williams fastballs, but zip.

Robinson floats a lot of passes (too many ducks with a tail) so he finishes last here. Coran Taylor a surprising second place finish.

"Throws A Nice Ball"

Brandon Peters: 7
Isaiah Williams: 6
Matt Robinson: 5
Coran Taylor: 8

I'm clearly going with Taylor here. If you just watch throwing drills - no routes, just stationary target drills - Taylor's ball is probably the most catchable. Really pure. Peters was close behind, with Williams right on his heels (Robinson gets points off here for the times his ball quacks through the air), but really, there's no great separation here (like there would be if Nathan Scheelhaase were listed here, the man with the most catchable ball I've seen).

Touch

Brandon Peters: 6
Isaiah Williams: 8
Matt Robinson: 5
Coran Taylor: 5

I was very surprised by Williams here. Maybe it was just a good practice and he'll fall back to the pack tomorrow, but several of his throws fit the situation. The deep ball had air under it. The slant was tighter. The swing pass to the back coming out of the backfield was slotted in there nicely. Probably the most surprising part of today.

Behind him, there wasn't much the separate the other three. Good moments bad moments.

Know When To Hold 'Em, Know When To Fold 'Em

Brandon Peters: 4
Isaiah Williams: 6
Matt Robinson: 8
Coran Taylor: 2

This category was won by Robinson and is the reason I still think people are dismissing him too quickly. He seems to have a good feel for the pocket in 11 on 11 drills when the rush is coming. Even has a sixth sense on linemen coming around from the blind side. Just a real nice presence in the pocket.

Williams would be next (spun into a sack twice from what I saw), followed by Peters (who didn't seem as comfortable with the rush as I thought he would be given his age and experience) and then Taylor (who still panics too much - same problem as the spring).

Escapability

Brandon Peters: 4
Isaiah Williams: 10
Matt Robinson: 7
Coran Taylor: 5

These were the wow moments of practice, as you might imagine. Isaiah Williams could escape from The Pit in The Dark Knight Rises. He has those quicks that you just can't teach. Lots of Chris Berman WHOOOP moments.

And we knew that, right? That's why he was a top recruit nationally. His quickness is just amazing. If he doesn't work out at QB, I feel like he could WHOOP so many people at wide receiver.

Behind him it's a mixed bag. I thought Taylor would be a little more Williams-like but he's Juice Williams-like - would rather run through people than around people. Peters did have one nice scramble, so a "4" is probably harsh (Wes Lunt's score here would be a 1, FWIW), but the other three QB's had much more escapability.

Throwing On The Run

Brandon Peters: 6
Isaiah Williams: 7
Matt Robinson: 8
Coran Taylor: 5

This one was close. I watched the drill and no one really stood out. I should probably have several players tied in this category but I chose to go 8-7-6-5. Robinson is a littler better than Williams who is a little better than Peters who is a little better than Taylor. But really, no one sticks out in this category.

Running The Offense In 11 on 11

Brandon Peters:7
Isaiah Williams: 8
Matt Robinson: 6
Coran Taylor: 3

This was where Williams was a bit of a surprise for me. In the 7 on 7 and the QB/WR drills, Williams was a bit disappointing upon first viewing. First practice, long way to go, but still, a bit disappointing.

But then once 11 on 11 happened, he stepped up his game. Maybe I'm inventing this in my head but his best throws (and best decisions) all came once the pass rush was headed his way. In fact, I was just starting to tweet about it when... he threw an interception.

Peters was next here. His rating in this category probably drops once he's facing a real defense (a real defense that knows he's probably not keeping it on the read-option and will tee off on him), but with an "honest", non-hedging defense, he commanded things well. Robinson was close in this category as well, while I thought Taylor was clearly fourth.

OK, so this wasn't really intended to be something where I total up the numbers -- it's not like "height" is on the same level as "running the offense" when it comes to rating such things -- but here's those totals nonetheless:

Isaiah Williams: 55
Brandon Peters: 51
Matt Robinson: 47
Coran Taylor: 40

Wow - that kind of... worked? This is just a list of raw skills, so this removes a lot of the "can he go through his progressions and make the correct decision" (which is like more than half of quarterbacking), but if we just look at raw abilities, that ranking looks right. Without his feet, Williams finishes 3rd, but those feet can't be ignored. I'm not scared at all to compare him to some of the great running quarterbacks in the Big Ten the last 15 years. Arm though? Long way to go.

Peters is the opposite. He's a prototypical QB (tall, strong, can make all the throws), but what do we know about the feet? This offense demands at least a little running - can he do it? We probably won't know until halfway through the season.

That's probably the story from Day One at camp. And we all knew it coming in. Peters arm! Williams' feet! Wait, they need to be able to do both?

Matt Robinsin is the both-iest. Doesn't have the arm of Peters, doesn't have the feet of Williams, but has a better arm than Williams and better feet than Peters. It's why I'm all "don't forget about him". "Both" is important.

Overall, the second hour was better than the first. I tweeted that Homer Simpson gif where he's tugging on his collar after the first hour because hoo-boy things looked rough. There was improvement in the second half, especially Williams in 11 on 11 drills where he can show the whole "dynamic playmaker" side, but still, there's no clear "yeah, that's the quarterback" (like, say, every Nathan Scheelhaase practice for four years).

And by the end of this month, if we want to win football games this fall, we really need to say "yeah, that's the quarterback". So... get to work, everyone.

Comments

SactownIllini on August 02 @ 05:22 PM CDT

Wow, just fantastic analysis!! I don't know you come up with this! Can't wait to see one of them play in the first game. Hopefully one emerges well above the rest.

deadguy on August 02 @ 05:27 PM CDT

Just renewed at $24 for the next year. Worth every penny.

ktal on August 02 @ 06:50 PM CDT

I'd rank Robinson the clear winner from those scores. But that's because I don't think the offense requires a running QB, although Rod may use a scheme which does.

I think we have the weapons to use a low-risk scheme which puts our fastest guys man on man, and therefore doesn't require a magical athlete at QB. It requires a guy who can run the playbook and not hurt us. If Robinson is the one who knows when to fold 'em, then we need to play him.

Bad QB decisions will cost more games than a lower score in any of the other variables you measured. Not even close.

STLIllini94 on August 02 @ 06:56 PM CDT

Watched basketball practice today. Kofi is a big man, he may have been spending too much time with Georgi. He talks a lot.

Tolkien73 on August 02 @ 07:24 PM CDT

Worth it at 10X the price!

IBFan on August 02 @ 08:30 PM CDT

Awesome! Thank you so much for the QB breakdown.

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