Recruiting Refresher: Quarterback

The Refresher list moves on, taking a look at the most important position in football — quarterback.

It's the position 99 percent of winning teams have set and 99 percent of losing teams don't. We're talking about quarterback of course, the bell cow of Illinois football recruiting under coach Tim Beckman.

Let's take a look at the signal callers Beckman has signed since his arrival in 2012…

2014: Chayce Crouch - Newark, Ohio (Newark Catholic), ranked No. 64 in the country, Wes Lunt (transfer), No. 21 in 2012.

2013: Aaron Bailey - Bolingbrook, Ill. (Bolingbrook), No. 11

2012: — None.

And currently in the fold in the '15 class: Jimmy Fitzgerald - Champaign, Ill. (Centennial), No. 47.

It's not hard to figure out — Illinois has recruited over it's head in this department. And what a position to overachieve in. Thanks to the transfer of Lunt and the addition of Bailey, the Illini have two viable options to transition from the Nathan Scheelhaase Era. It doesn't hurt to have a senior in the mix either, with Reilly O'Toole representing the lone Ron Zook holdover.

With those three involved for the 2014 season, freshman Chayce Crouch will be able to redshirt and learn at a reasonable pace. I've heard the popular lobby from somewhere around the football facility, that Crouch's ranking was hindered by an early commitment and the lack of communicating offers. That may be the case, but it will all take care of itself down the road.

Number rankings don't matter once you step foot on campus. At that point, it's 50/50. Either you will contribute or you won't.

The rankings are important, though, in the months leading up to National Signing Day. Landing a big-name quarterback like Bailey or Lunt looks good, sounds good and, most importantly, sells good. If a class includes a good quarterback, the fans respond, other recruits take notice and the whole thing just feels more complete.

It's a pretty big deal that all these guys are working with coordinator Bill Cubit, too. He made Scheelhaase shine. He has O'Toole revamped. With those two accomplishments already etched in stone, I trust that Cubit can make magic with arms like Lunt's and Bailey's. From what I've seen and gathered, Crouch has a strong arm and a good physical and mental make-up. There's plenty of talent and leadership for Cubit to mold and bend and shape into a good product.

I see a lot of the same with Fitzgerald. While I don't think the local kid is as good as Crouch was last season or as dynamic as Lunt or Bailey, I think he's a good get because he could grow into a Big Ten quarterback. Not there yet — could be down the road. Since the position wasn't in bad shape coming into this cycle, I see nothing wrong with taking a good kid like Jimmy, a local standout with good on-the-field potential and off-the-field habits.

So where does it go from here? The staff could swing for the fences in 2015 and try to add a big name with Fitzgerald in the fold (David Edwards doesn't count! He's a tight end). I like Reese Ryan, although he may be tough to pry him from the home-state Louisville Cardinals. While it's unlikely, it's still viable. It's the next cycle — 2016 — that the staff could land another impact name. Cubit can lock in on a few players and make them feel like the top priority. Seth Green, Logan Byrd and Jarrett Guarantano are names you probably already know. Is pursuing top-flight guys like that ambitious?

It sure is. But the Illinois staff has earned the right to be confident with recruiting quarterbacks.


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