Position Review: Quarterbacks

Leading up to the 2005 Illini football season, IlliniBoard.com's Jeff Murdock decided it would be a good idea to breakdown the Fighting Illini football team position by position. In today's installment, Jeff looks at the quarterback position. Heading into the season the Illini starting quarterback will be Junior Tim Brasic, who has only thrown one pass in his college career. Who else is there behind center, and how will the Illini quarterbacks adjust to Ron Zook's new offensive system?

As Illinisports told us in his review of Ron Zook's offensive philosophies, Illinois will be running a spread offensive this season, a sharp contrast to the pro-style offense that Illini fans have been used to in the past. To install their spread offense Ron Zook and Offensive Coordinator Mike Locksley are looking to Junior Tim Brasic. In his college career, Tim has only played in two games (Illinois State and Iowa in 2003) and only attempted one pass (it was incomplete).

Unfortunately, not a lot that is known about Tim Brasic on the field of play because he has not played in any meaningful minutes in his college career. To get the most information on how Brasic played, I needed to look back on his high school days at Riverside-Brookfield where he was throwing passes to the great Fred Nkemdi. During his senior season at Riverside-Brookfield, Brasic rewrote the IHSA record books for passing, in an offense that was very similar to a spread offense. During his senior year of high school Brasic was named the Chicago Sun-Times' and Champaign News-Gazette's Player of the Year, and set IHSA records with 4,639 yards and 58 touchdowns.

Backing up Tim will be fellow junior Chris Pazan. Pazan has more in game experience than Brasic, but Brasic is better suited for the spread offense. Pazan was recruited by Ron Turner to be a drop back passer in his pro-style offense, and his lack of foot speed makes the adjustment to the spread offense a little tougher. In the last two seasons, Pazan has seen plenty of time under center. In 2003, Pazan played in six games, starting two of them (at Michigan and vs. Minnesota). His passing numbers were solid as he was 49-82 for a 59.0% completion percentage, while throwing two touchdowns and just two interceptions.

Last season, Pazan was the third quarterback on the Illinois roster behind the graduated Jon Beutjer and Brad Bower, who transferred to Ohio this off-season. He played in four games for the Illini, and was used as a sparkplug in those games by Ron Turner as he was trying to discover the right combination to bring wins to Champaign. Pazan's completion percentage once again hovered around 60%, and his touchdown to interception ratio was also 1:1, just like in his freshman season.

It is tough to figure out who sits third on the depth chart for the Illini at quarterback, but it will definitely be one of the two redshirt freshmen, Kisan Flakes or Billy Garza.

After Spring practice, Flakes was listed on the depth chart as the back up, but before Fall Practices, he was arrested for possession of marijuana, putting his status on the Illinois team in question. Flakes is currently suspended pending the outcome of the ongoing litigation. That leaves Billy Garza as the third string quarterback for Illinois.

Garza, from Brownsville, TX, came to Illinois and intrigued many Illinois fans that wondered whether or not Ron Turner found a diamond in the rough deep in Texas like Drew Brees who left the Lone Star state to become a starting quarterback in the Big Ten. Garza looked impressive in fall practices last season, and he redshirted as expected. In last Saturday's Camp Rantoul Scrimmage, Billy was 2-6 for 31 yards and 1 INT, so he still has a lot of work to surpass either Pazan or Brasic on the depth chart.

The other quarterbacks on the Illinois roster true freshman Paul Blalock from Waubonsie Valley HS and redshirt freshman walkon Mark Venegoni from Carmel HS. Blalock is expected to redshirt this season, while Venegoni is sitting behind all the other quarterbacks, and he is not expected to see any playing time.

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