Jeremy Werner

Illini check in on JUCO quarterbacks

Pair of JUCO quarterbacks have received initial interest from Illini, who want to add to quarterback competition for next season

It's no secret that Illinois is looking to add to its 2017 quarterback competition.

Despite some recent criticism, senior Wes Lunt's graduation will be a big loss for the Illini -- especially considering how thin the Illini are behind him on the depth chart.

Two backups transferred before the season: true freshman Eli Peters transferred to Toledo this spring and redshirt freshman Jimmy Fitzgerald decided to leave just before fall camp.

That leaves only redshirt sophomore Chayce Crouch and redshirt freshman Jeff George Jr. as returners at the position. Toolsy 2017 commit Cam Thomas will join the roster as well, but the in-state prospect likely is a year or two away from being Big Ten ready. So the Illinois staff is actively preparing for the grad transfer market. The staff already compiled list of all the redshirt junior quarterbacks in the country (the list of players who will have the opportunity to transfer penalty-free for their fifth and final year of eligibility) who could provide a one-year bridge to this staff's hand-picked prep quarterback prospects.

But the Illini also are scouring the junior college ranks for players who could provide a possible two-year bridge.

The Illini have done their homework on some of the top JUCO quarterback prospects, including DeAndre Johnson and Cameron Burston. They've also dug a little deeper for a few intriguing dual-threat prospects.

Former Nebraska quarterback A.J. Bush has pinged on their radar. Bush left the Cornhuskers this fall after it was clear that coach Mike Riley was moving to an offense centered around pocket passers Tanner Lee and Patrick O'Brien.

So far, Bush has received interest from Lafayette, South Florida, Southern Miss and UCF, the latter of which is led by former Nebraska offensive coordinator Scott Frost who recruited Bush to the Huskers.

The Illinois staff also has reached out to Bush recently.

"They just letting me know there's interest and I like Illinois a lot honestly," Bush said. "I would prefer to go there."

Of course, Illinois is in the very preliminary stages of its research on Bush. A two-star prospect out of Georgia, Bush currently splits time at quarterback at Iowa Western. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound dual-threat quarterback has the size and athleticism Illinois wants.

But he's struggled on the field so far this season, especially  when it comes to taking care of the ball. Bush is 32-for-78 passing (41.0 percent) for 369 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. He also has 160 rushing yards on 56 carries and has lost six fumbles.

"The season is going good," Bush said. "We just got to finish games. No one's offered yet but hopefully soon."

Another former power-five signee now at a JUCO has received Illini interest. Former Syracuse signee Alin Edouard said he recently has talked with Illinois offensive coordinator Garrick McGee and running backs coach Thad Ward. He said defensive backs coach Paul Williams stopped in to Independence last week.

Edouard originally signed with Syracuse out of Miami Hialeah High School but couldn't enroll due to academic issues. He then transferred to Garden City CC in Kansas but moved across the state to Independence CC.

Edouard, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound redshirt freshman, currently serves as the backup to former Kansas State quarterback Jonathan Banks. In limited time, Edouard has completed 3 of 10 passes for 37 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions.

Edouard said he currently has interest from Purdue, North Texas, Akron and Louisiana-Monroe. He has a high interest in the Illini, but it's yet to be determined how much interest Illinois has in him. 

"First of all I like what Lovie is about to do with the program," Edouard told Illini Inquirer. "It takes time for everyone, and I believe that Lovie will do big things at Illinois especially with the coaches he's got now. They have coaches that can relate to players through coaching and being able to crack jokes with them. I spoke to Lovie, I spoke to Garrick and Coach Ward and coach Paul Williams kinda already knew who he was when he was at Miami where I was committed there for a while."

Scouting report from Mike McAllister,"(Edouard is) a dynamic athlete. A true dual-threat quarterback. When he signed with Syracuse, sources indicated they thought he could become the face of the program. He needed to add weight out of high school as he was very skinny. But he's elusive, has good speed, and is a dangerous runner. Solid passer who has a strong arm. Out of high school needed to improve pocket awareness and accuracy down the field." 


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