Whitmer Firmly Committed To Illini, Zook

The Fighting Illini football team has had a difficult season, but there are still reasons to remain hopeful. Besides a large contingent of returning players, there are some excellent recruits on the way as well. Among them is star quarterback Chandler Whitmer, who wants to play for Illini coach Ron Zook and believes a bright future lies ahead.

Quarterback commitment Chandler Whitmer was sad to see his high school career end, but he will be enrolling soon for second semester classes at Illinois. He is looking forward to the challenge.

"I definitely miss it, but you can't look back. I start school in about a month and a half, and I'm looking forward to starting something new in this stage of my life."

Whitmer led Downers Grove South to an outstanding season record.

"The season was great. We started 0-2. We knew we were gonna have two tough games with Bolingbrook and Glenbard West, who ended up beating Bolingbrook in the second round. Glenbard West was in the state finals.

"Our young guys really learned from that and stepped up their play. We were on a roll ever since. And then we had a tough loss in the third round of the playoffs to Glenbard North, who lost to Marist (a state finalist) on a last second field goal. It was disappointing, but unless you win state, you're gonna end your high school career with a loss. But it was a great season, and I had a lot of fun."

Whitmer's offense was hindered at times by youth.

"We had an all-young offensive line, two starting receivers were juniors, and the running back was a sophomore. We had only three seniors on offense. We had 8 guys on defense that were seniors. We had a great defense this year that helped us win some ball games. We had a good team, but we should be good next year too."

Despite being invited to the Elite 11 camp, Whitmer was not asked to throw the ball all over the field.

"We just had a good balance of run and pass. We had a stud running back in Josh Williams. He kind of got hurt in the middle of the year, but his backup played great as well. When we beat teams handily, by the fourth quarter we had no need to pass the ball."

He thinks Williams is a future star.

"Yeah, he definitely will be. He's definitely something special. I've put a bug in his ear this year about Illinois. We'll see how that goes."

While Whitmer is not known as a running quarterback, he was effective running the ball when needed.

"Definitely. I like to make plays with my feet when the pocket breaks down or a big play is needed. I just do what I have to do. I had a good year. I had some good runs, and I had some good throws."

The 6'-1", 190 pounder needed to throw more late in the season and asserted himself well.

"We did throw a little bit in the playoffs and ended up getting a few wins, which is more than we had done in a couple years at Downers Grove South. We hadn't been to the quarterfinals since 2002. It was good to get back there."

Whitmer critiqued his overall play.

"I had a good season. I had a few more interceptions than I'd like. I was just a little too confident in my arm. I'd rare back and let her rip, and things happened. But I definitely had some big plays I was asked to make to get some victories for us in the playoffs. It felt good to do that. I wanted to be consistent this year, and the coach said I did a good job of that."

Whitmer is diplomatic and won't discuss specifics of the Illini's offensive struggles this year. But he understands and empathizes with the cyles of good and bad all players and teams encounter.

"Definitely, that's the way the game is. They say it's a game of inches, but it's really a game of confidence and momentum and the way the team is going at the time. A lot of it's mental and being on the same page with your teammates as well. I can't comment on what their struggles have been this year, but I have a feeling they'll change things around."

He knows a quarterback must make the throws required of him for a team to be successful.

"Definitely, that's what quarterbacks are asked to do. Get the ball to the playmakers. That's what I like to do. If they ask me to do that when I come in, that's what I'm gonna do. I'm going in early to get a headstart on the offense and college life, and see where that takes me. I look forward to it."

Whitmer is advanced beyond his years in terms of seeing the bigger picture and accepting the pressure fan bases apply to college teams and especially quarterbacks. He doesn't look forward to being the subject of extreme scrutiny, but he understands it.

"That's the nature of the business. Every school has tough times, and it's essential to stay positive and be patient with it. You can't get too down when they lose or too high when they win, but that's kind of how it is. You just want to stay consistent and play for people who really want to win. That's just kind of how it works in college football."

Whitmer and his family have worked hard to convince other prospective recruits to think positively of Illinois. And he is in frequent touch with the other commitments. Despite one recent defection, he believes the others will remain solidly in the Illini camp.

"I believe they will. I just talked to Coach Zook. I don't see how you can't want to play for that guy. I know people say bad things about him when things aren't going good. But all the people say he's a player's coach, and he truly is.

"He's a great guy, and I wouldn't want to play for anybody else. I can't see why any of those other recruits wouldn't want to play for him either."

Whitmer has never wavered in his decision to attend the UI. He knows Zook has his back, and he appreciates it.

"Definitely. That's one of the main reasons I chose to play for Illinois. I feel most comfortable with him leading my team and being able to play for him."


Illini Inquirer Top Stories