Whitmer Ready To Compete For Starting Spot

When there are coaching changes, some high school athletes reconsider their previous college commitments. But Illini quarterback recruit Chandler Whitmer never wavered when the Illini had a difficult season and several assistant coaches were let go. Now enrolled in school, Whitmer is hoping his team workouts will prepare him for early playing time.

Chandler Whitmer has remained true to Illinois even with all the changes taking place. He is already with his third offensive coordinator, and he just began college classes this month.

"(Mike) Locksley was the one that offered me. Then I committed to (Mike) Schultz, and now I'm playing for (Paul) Petrino. I decided to commit to the program. I know Coach (Ron) Zook says people make the place, and he's always been here. I've always stayed true to him. It's been difficult trying to stay true, but once you make a commitment I believe in staying with it."

Now a full-fledged member of the Fighting Illini, Whitmer is undergoing a difficult transition process.

"I'm getting the hang of it. It's been tough getting thrown right into things. I'm loving it. I was prepared to do this, and it's exciting. I'm having fun."

With a brand new offense, Whitmer is getting in on the ground floor.

"Exactly, that's the biggest reason I wanted to do it. With Coach Petrino coming in, new offense and everything, we're all on the same level having to learn the new offense. That puts me on the same level as them. That's an exciting factor in coming here early."

The 6'-1", 190 pounder is enthusiastic about what Petrino brings to the table.

"He's very high-energy. He'll sit back and relax when we're sitting around talking, but when we start talking ball he's go-go-go. He's running down the field with the receivers, he's yelling, getting up on the board, doing stuff in the meeting rooms, getting up doing drops. He was on my recruiting visit to my house, and he had me do drops in my basement. He's a very exciting guy.

"I stayed in contact with him every 2-3 days when he first got the job. So just building that relationship."

Whitmer sees plenty of changes in the new offense to his liking.

"It's different because he likes to do things that aren't expected by the defense. Throw on first down. Do high-energy things like he is. Throw deep once in awhile. Keep them guessing by changing personnel and switching things up so the defense will never get the hang of what we're doing. Instead of just plain vanilla stuff."

What does Whitmer consider his main strength as a quarterback?

"Probably leadership. That's something I pride myself on. I think that's what we need to turn this team around, some focus and guidance, staying positive. But on the field, it's probably being accurate, quick with my decisions, being smart about knowing where to get the ball to my playmakers and letting them do their thing."

Whitmer was named Most Accurate at the Elite 11 camp. But he says there is more to it than just hitting a moving target.

"People talk about me being accurate, but it comes with my feet. Planting my feet, having quick feet, knowing where to go with the ball really helps. It's definitely my best attribute as a player."

He is not a speed merchant, but he can use his feet effectively when needed.

"If I have to when the play breaks down, or I can make something happen when the pocket breaks down. That's something else I pride myself on. I try to model my game after Drew Brees. He's known for accurate, quick decision-making and being able to move around in the pocket."

He also admires Brees for his ability to succeed at the professional level despite modest height.

"That's definitely another reason. He's one of the undersized quarterbacks, and I look up to him for that for keeping the reputation alive that shorter quarterbacks can play football as well. I also idolize him as a person. He's a great guy, helps out in the community."

Whitmer compensates for a lack of height by knowing when and where to throw the ball.

"I find the throwing lanes through the linemen and the defense. I haven't had to change my motion. It's gotten me good so far. We'll see how it goes."

He is already deeply involved in winter conditioning.

"It's going great. Building chemistry with the guys. Coach Lou (Hernandez) is getting us right. Hopefully one day I'll have a Body By Lou as they say. It's been fun.

"We've been throwing. We have good talent at receiver, tight end, a lot of running backs. It's exciting to see what we've got, and I'm ready to keep moving forward."

Jacob Charest gained experience at quarterback for Illinois as a redshirt freshman last year. Nathan Scheelhaase is looking for his first action after a redshirt year. And right now the Downers Grove South athlete is the third and final quarterback on the roster. He is preparing to receive playing time this fall.

"Definitely. I'm preparing like I'm gonna be the starter. Either way. If my number's called, great. If not, I'll just continue to work and make my team better. Make myself better. I'm gonna be ready when my number's called, and I'm gonna do everything I can to be the starter against Missouri.

"I'm studying the playbook. I tell people right now my toughest subject is football. I'm majoring in Kinesiology. I'm already in three of those classes. I just enjoy learning about the body, how it works and how to make it most efficient."

Whitmer seems to have everything going for him, intelligence, leadership, fundamental skills and a strong work ethic. On top of that, he likes to help build a team from the ground up.

"We're turning the thing around, the coaches and everybody are starting over. It's fun to be in this situation and start rebuilding again."

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