Chris Beatty Discusses Quarterback Play

When new Fighting Illini football coach Tim Beckman went searching for assistants to fill out his staff, he sought people who could both coach and recruit. New quarterback coach and co-offensive coordinator Chris Beatty fits that description well. He talks about his background, interest in Illinois and what he looks for in a quarterback in part one of a three-part series.

Chris Beatty has enjoyed a diverse set of college coaching experiences. After coaching high school ball at three Virginia schools, he has coached at Hampton, Northern Illinois, West Virginia and most recently at Vanderbilt. He recently joined head coach Tim Beckman on the Illinois staff as quarterback coach and co-offensive coordinator.

Beatty thought he knew about the University of Illinois before arriving, but the strong academic reputation surprised him.

"I really didn't know how great an academic institution Illinois was. Coming from Vanderbilt, so much was put into the academics there. I didn't realize we were considered a 'Public Ivy.' That's the kind of thing that doesn't always get out there much. I never would've guessed how great an academic reputation this place has."

Vanderbilt and West Virginia offered him contrasting academic styles, allowing him to thrive in any situation.

"No question. They're all great places, but there's obviously a different academic standard at Vanderbilt than at any other school, with the exception of a handful. It is definitely different.

"And then coming here, it was a little bit of an eye-opener how difficult it was academically here for students, in a good way. The record speaks for itself as far as where they stand nationally as an academic institution."

Beatty hasn't coached quarterbacks at the college level before Illinois, but he feels his background gives him the experience necessary to do a good job.

"I was a high school coach for a long time. The last couple of high school coaches have done pretty well coaching quarterbacks. Gus Malzahn has done pretty good and had some success. And Chad Morris has had some success at Clemson.

"The last few years, I worked with the quarterbacks at West Virginia. I worked hand-in-hand with our coordinator there. The running backs and slots were my general area, but we all worked together in the passing game. And I did the same thing at my last stop Vanderbilt when I had the wide receivers. I played quarterback in high school."

Beatty understands the importance quarterbacks play in an offense. By definition, they are a different animal, and their expertise must encompass much more than knowledge of every play in the playbook.

"Everybody's looking at you for answers. You touch the ball every play. It's a little bit different than anything else. A wideout can command the ball, but he needs somebody to give it to him.

"It's not always easy to lead the quarterback position, but people look at him to lead. It's not easy to lead from another position because you don't always get everybody's attention every single play."

What does he look for in a spread offense quarterback?

"We'd like somebody that can make all the throws. He's got to be able to throw the ball and spread the field. But we'd also like him to have some feet, to be able to move and scramble in the pocket and be able to do some quarterback runs.

"But we're also not going to limit ourselves to just take a guy that can run and not throw or take a guy that could throw it but not run. We want to get the guy with the best fit and then build our system around that. It would be a priority to be able to do both."

It can be difficult to evaluate how a quarterback will respond under pressure. He may be outstanding in noncontact drills when he wears a red shirt to prevent injury. But how will he respond to an all-out Big 10 rush eager to knock his head off?

More than one former Illini quarterback has fallen by the wayside by allowing fear to dominate his approach. This is hard to duplicate in practice but must be an important consideration when choosing your quarterback.

"There's no question. You always like to see someone step through and throw in somebody's face, but unless you are in the foxhole, you don't really know. You want to do as much work as you can find out those things before you put your future in that person's hands."

Beatty is impressed with the quarterbacks on campus. He talks about them and their role in the new Illini offense in part two. His recruiting acumen is discussed in part three.

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