Position Preview: QB in Good Hands

Since he arrived on campus, Juice Williams seems to have had the weight of the Illini football program on his shoulders. But never has that been more true than right now. If the Illini are truly to continue as an elite team in the Big Ten, their junior quarterback must take them there. He kicks off our position previews.

Juice is never going to be the nation's best passer. The key is, can he be a consistent quarterback who hits the open guy, gets the offense out of a bad play, minimizes mistakes and does the things through the passing game you expect a veteran college quarterback to do?

If so, the Illini are poised for a very big season. Because you know he is going to make plays with his legs. You know he can run the option, you know is cherishes big moments -- just ask Ohio State -- you know the team believes in him.

It really comes down to whether he can be a consistent passer.

"We know he can do it because we've all seen him do it," Illinois coach Ron Zook said. "Now, have we seen it as consistently as we would have liked? Not yet. But we've seen him do it, that means he can do it. He just has to be consistent."

So how far along is he?

"He has done fine," Zook said. "Remember, he was only a sophomore last year. A true sophomore. Playing quarterback. People forget that. He has still only had two spring practices. We believe in him, I'll tell you that. And so do our players."

Williams went from a 39 percent passer as a freshman to a 57 percent passer and threw 13 TD passes to 12 interceptions last year. This year, Illinois needs him in the 60s in percentage and with a 2-to-1 TD to interception ratio.

The good news is, finally, there is experienced depth. Eddie McGee only threw 55 passes last year and completed 29, but most importantly, played in some crucial moments. Finishing the games against Missouri and Iowa. Crucial plays against Penn State and Michigan. He has been out there.

What McGee has to do to is take a cue from Juice: spend the time Juice does studying opponents, watching his own tape, working the weightroom. Don't pout about not playing but be ready when called on.

If he does, he helps the cause immensely.

Finally, Jacob Charest is clearly this team's quarterback of the future. He will redshirt this year, barring injury to one of the top two guys, but his strong arm and lightning quick release will be something for Illinois fans to see in the future.

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