A QB Named Juice: What He Needs To Do

You've watched him so long now, you feel like you know him. So well, he doesn't even need a last name. Or even his given first name. Just a mention of the moniker, "Juice", and all know. Not "The Juice" like the once famous now infamous running back. Not "Isiah Juice Williams." You don't need that much. Just "Juice."

The name makes you smile, because you think of the wonderful plays he has made -- the stadium records he has set. Yet, it makes you cringe just a bit, because of the inconsistency, the turnovers, the missed open receivers.

Yet, for the most part, you know how much he has meant to the Illinois program. You know he is the foundation on which this turnaround has been built. And you hope for his sake, and yours, he has the senior season to remember. If so, the season will be special for the Illini.

So what does this guy "Juice" need to do to finish the way he wants. A few keys for the memorable No. 7 as he enters his final season.

1. Relax. There is no more important key for Juice. If he can somehow relax, not feel the weight of the world is on his shoulders, not grip it tight and throw it hard, he can be special. When Juice has fun he makes good decisions. He throws accurately. When he tenses up, look out. There is no telling where that thing is going. Relaxing is the key.

2. Benefit from a simpler offense. As many good things as Mike Locksley did for Juice and the Illini, his error was in asking Juice to run a complex passing offense. That isn't Juice's strength. He is a bright guy, but he never played in a complex offense until he got to college and it never will be his strength.

New coordinator Mike Schultz is simplyfing things for him, which makes sense. Simple reads, easier routes, hit the open guy.

3. Take care of the ball. Don't throw it unless the receiver is open. Find a way to see the backside defender. Sense and feel the blindside rush and put the ball away. That has been emphasized to him more than you can imagine. If he can take that to heart, Juice can have a huge season.

4. Work on accuracy. Juice has always been a hard worker, but he must work harder than ever on accuracy. If a guy is open, a senior quarterback and four-year starter has to hit him. That simple. You have to hit the open guy to win today.

5. Run with authority. When Juice starts to run and lowers his shoulder, he is an absolute load. He also can make defenders miss. But when he is tentative, he is just another upright runner who isn't all that fast. So when you are going to run, run! That is being emphasized to him more than ever.

6. Finally, have fun. This sort of relates to No. 1. But this is college football, the weight of the world doesn't have to be on your shoulders. It should be a memory of a lifetime, not a period you regret. Enjoy yourself, your teammates, your school, your celebrity. Remember it is a game. Above all else, remember it is a game.

If Juice accomplishes that part, well, look out.

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