Crouch to Dudek Starting Early

The 2013 class just arrived on campus and the players are just getting to know each other in a lot of cases. But two commits in the 2014 class have already started building a connection.

Mike Dudek and Chayce Crouch met for the first time in person on Saturday, but based on what we saw, it looked like they had grown up together and played on the same team their whole lives.

Most of the time, a quarterback and his receivers get started when they all report for their freshman summer workouts after they graduate, but Crouch and Dudek have taken it upon themselves to get a head start.

The two have been talking for some time now, but both decided to come down to Champaign this weekend for the final one-day camp of the summer. And while several prospects were competing for offers, Dudek and Crouch were there to get to work and have some fun.

Oh, and get a glimpse of what their future on the field together might be like at Illinois.

It took a pass or two to get warmed up, but once they got in sync, Crouch hit Dudek again, and again... and again.

"Mikey and I have developed some great chemistry, including this weekend," Crouch said. "We learned a lot about each other and have become pretty close."

That chemistry can make a huge difference on the field just as much as off the field. After a few throws, Dudek felt like they hit their stride.

"We sort of began to figure each other out more as the camp went on. I felt like we had a great day for it being our first time."

Their strengths both complement each other very well. Crouch feels a lot better as a quarterback knowing how easily Dudek gets open and can run down the deep throws.

"Mikey can fly and is very precise in his route running," Crouch said. "He has unbelievable hands and adjusts to the ball very well."

And Crouch set up Dudek well all day with his ball placement. The timing took a little work, but Dudek was happy with how Crouch led him on throws.

"I feel like we got better timing as the day went on," Dudek said. "There's always room for improvement though. He put the ball where I was going to be versus where I was."

From a scouting standpoint, this was not only the first opportunity we got to see Crouch throw in person, especially after he worked on his motion during the offseason, but also to see him throw to a division one-caliber receiver in Dudek.

Crouch's motion was far tighter and much more technically sound than some of his early tape showed. Of course, Coach Bill Cubit, his future college coach had some pointers for him along the way.

Crouch put good spin on the ball, and even when the coverage was tight on the receiver, Crouch snuck the ball in only where his guy could get to it.

And Crouch's evaluation of Dudek was pretty accurate, too. Dudek gets better and better every time we see him. Technically, he's very sound. His cuts are extremely sharp. He's a very quick guy who has a lot of shake and very little wasted motion. His speed is his calling card, but his quickness makes all of the difference.

On top of that, his hands have improved since the high school season, and he looks much more comfortable catching the ball over either shoulder. He's continuing to add strength which should help him fight off DB's who try to jam him at the line of scrimmage.

But this is just the start of the connection between the future teammates. But beyond just being teammates, the two have already become great friends.

"I'm driving up to visit him in two weeks or so. We're already becoming great friends," Crouch said. "We already decided we're going to be roommates."

Crouch continued, "We'll probably hang out and go downtown in Chicago, but I'm sure we'll end up tossing the rock around a bit too."

Getting to know each other this early and work out a few times is a huge advantage to the two of them.

"I think it's really beneficial to our future at Illinois because we're already close and have a good relationship," Crouch said. "The more we have the opportunity to work together before we get there, the easier it will be for us to adapt and click."

Dudek echoed Crouch's thoughts almost identically. The friendship they're building off the field could very well make a huge difference on the field, too.

"It helps a lot," Dudek said. "We build strong bonds with each other as friends and that just helps the transformation to the field be that much easier."

And with those bonds already growing both on and off the field, they hope to hit the ground running once they get to campus as freshmen. But for now, they still have a year to keep working on their own skills and hopefully form a strong QB-receiver tandem by the time they suit up for Illinois.

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