Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Backup QB Crouch Gets Ready to Help Illini

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Backup QB Crouch Gets Ready to Help Illini

Article excerpt

CHAMPAIGN, ILL * Five months before the season begins, the Illini football depth chart shows Wes Lunt as the starting quarterback.

But as always when Lunt is in the No. 1 spot, the No. 2 quarterback needs to be warming up in the bullpen. Now.

Lunt has not made it through a college football season in one piece, not as a freshman at Oklahoma State nor as a redshirt sophomore in 2014 at Illinois. Injuries seem to find him and last season it was a broken leg in the sixth game that ruined what looked to be a very fine season.

Last year, Lunt's injury opened the door for senior Reilly O'Toole to have a strong finish. It was O'Toole who helped win three of the final five games and it was O'Toole who led Illinois into the Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl against Louisiana Tech.

It's the intention of everyone associated with the Illini team to have Lunt defy the odds and make it through the coming season in good health. But because there's no guarantee, Chayce Crouch already understands he needs to be ready.

On Wednesday, every time an Illini quarterback dropped back to pass, he did so knowing he had exactly 2.2 seconds to get the ball out of his hands. That's when a horn sounded and whether a receiver was open or not, that quarterback was under orders to have delivered the football.

The result was more incomplete passes than anyone would like, but Crouch knows this is a drill that could make the passing attack more precise while preserving the quarterback's health at the same time.

"The whole emphasis is getting the ball out of our hands quickly," said Crouch, a redshirt freshman from Granville, Ohio.

Crouch is the first Illini quarterback hand-picked by offensive coordinator Bill Cubit.

Cubit inherited Nathan Scheelhaase, O'Toole and Aaron Bailey and had Lunt fall into his lap when he transferred from Oklahoma State. But the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Crouch is his kind of quarterback, even if he's still very much a work in progress.

TOUGH ADJUSTMENT

"Chayce is swimming a little bit right now," Cubit admitted Wednesday. …

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