Quarterback Jacob Charest Seeks Playing Time

The most popular player on any football team is the backup quarterback. Those who are disappointed with the team's starter anoint those they haven't seen play to superstar status in their minds. It is a heady time for players like Illini freshman Jacob Charest.

So Jacob Charest, how does it feel to be the Illinois Golden Boy?

"I haven't done anything wrong yet. There's a little bit of pressure, but I'm just gonna go out there and do what I can do. If it's good, it's good. If not, I'll work on it."

Jake has tremendous potential as a quarterback, and he feels he benefitted from a redshirt year. But he didn't receive much practice time last fall. Illinois had only two varsity quarterbacks, so he had to be prepared in case Juice Williams and Eddie McGee went out with injuries. He was basically in limbo.

"Yeah, that was kind of rough. You go to practice and just stand around every day. It's not really fun. You don't get to throw as much either way. If I'd been on the scout team all fall I would have thrown the ball more, but I wouldn't have been able to learn the plays. But being up there, I wasn't able to throw as much."

The North Carolina native wasn't far removed from playing as a true freshman. Juice was banged up more severely than anyone knew at the time. And McGee broke his hand late in the year. Fortunately, he didn't have to burn his redshirt year with some late season participation.

"Juice and Eddie were both shaken up towards the end of the year. But I'm kind of glad they redshirted me. I would have liked to jump in there and played a little as a freshman and get a feel for everything. But in the long run, I think it will be better."

Spring practice is a time for Jake to compete for playing time, and he's happy about it.

"It's way more exciting. It's a completely different feeling when you're actually involved and contributing to the team. It's definitely 10 times better than last year.

"It was good to sit back and learn a little bit, get a jump on things. And now everything's getting put into place where it should be. It's definitely exciting to be more involved.

"I was still up with the traveling guys so I could get some experience, what I could get out of it. But there's really no comparison to now when I'm actually getting reps. The easiest way for me to learn this stuff is to get in there and do it myself."

Despite the lack of practice time last fall, Charest has seen improvement in his body and game.

"I've kind of trimmed up a little bit. I was a little heavy coming back from winter break. I've lost a couple pounds, and my arm definitely feels a lot stronger. And knowing the overall offense. It's kind of falling into place and glueing itself together."

The 6'-4", 225 pounder liked former offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Mike Locksley, but he is grateful to be working with new quarterback coach Kurt Beathard.

"Yes, it's a lot simpler. It's easier to pick up. In practice, we're going through it bang, real quick. It's kind of easy because you don't think much about it. You just learn it and then apply it and go from there. You make a few mistakes at first because we're putting in new stuff. Some of the routes are a little different, some of the protections are different. But it's easier.

"Coach Beathard is an awesome coach so far. He definitely knows what he's talking about. He explains everything well, and he kind of relates to us. He knows that we're college students too. He knows in meetings we have to have some free time too. So we get the meeting done, learn some stuff, and get out of there.

"And he writes a lot of stuff on the board. He shows us exactly what's going on instead of just talking. Last year, Coach Locks would watch film and then talk about it. Coach Beathard actually draws the plays on the board and shows us exactly where we need to go, which is helping alot. It's a little easier.

"If I understood what Coach Locks was talking about, then it was fine. But when I came in, I knew about half of what Coach Locks was talking about. Coach Beathard is definitely helping me understand things more. Everything's positive. He's not a big negative guy. He keeps everything positive, keeps your confidence up."

Jake has a strong, accurate arm, but he isn't as fast a runner as Williams and McGee. However, the high school wrestler has some mobility and won't shy away from contact. He is willing and able to help the Illini with his running.

"If I had to, I can do it. I'm not gonna be one of those guys that's gonna break it for 60 yards. Maybe if I got just the right hole I could make it. I'm more of a throw first if I can. If not, then I'll run it. I can get some yards on the ground, but I'd much rather throw the ball.

"I'm not gonna be elusive, but I'll stick my head in there. I'm not gonna shy away from hits."

What does he need to do to improve his game?

"I feel if I learn the offense like the back of my hand, that would solve a lot of problems. If I could improve on that, my overall game would be way better."

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