Jeff Brohm worked with Illinois offensive coordinator Paul Petrino and tight end/fullback coach Greg Nord at Louisville four years and had great success there. It's been a whirlwind for him since he was announced as Illini quarterback coach, but he is excited about coaching under Ron Zook and rejoining Petrino and Nord in Champaign.
"It's something I'm excited about and looking forward to being here with Coach Zook and back here with some other coaches I have been with before. We've had some success doing what we've done together the four years we were at Louisville, and we're looking forward to putting that to the test here at Illinois and in the Big 10.
"Without question, it's good when you can go into a situation you're familiar with and comfortable with. And also when you believe in the product and what you're doing. That plays an important role and is definitely something that excites me and all of us. We're definitely looking forward to this year."
Brohm coached at Florida International this past year, but his home most of his life has been Louisville. Has the move to Illinois been difficult for him?
"I'm looking forward to it as much as I've looked forward to anything in awhile. I'm from Louisville and played there and coached there. Other than my NFL time, that's basically where I've been. I think this past year when I was in Florida I really thoroughly enjoyed it. Now that I'm here, I'm definitely looking forward to this."
Brohm joined the San Diego Chargers in 1994, and they played in Super Bowl XXIX. He was Steve Young's understudy in San Francisco the next three seasons. He also spent time with Tampa Bay, Denver, and Cleveland, and he played in the XFL with the Orlando Rage in 2001. He was first team all-XFL and had the league's highest QB rating.
He believes his professional experience aids him now as a coach.
"I do think it does help. A lot of times, when you're trying to teach someone something, you tell them this and that and it's harder for them to believe if you haven't been under the fire and seen it first hand. I'm much more confident teaching something that I've done at the highest level.
"Not only have I witnessed it myself, but I've stood next to other top pro players who told me this and told me that. I've learned along the way. And I've played for some great coaches at the highest level. So I think it makes a difference."
Brohm says he wouldn't have come to Illinois had he not been convinced Coach Zook had created a program on the verge of excellence.
"This is a great spot to be. I think Coach Zook has built a solid foundation. Now it's just up to us to put players in the positions to win. Try to do what they do best. And try to be creative and innovative while at the same time being simple in understanding the offense. We like to say we're on attack as an offense, and we're looking forward to try to do that."
Petrino is installing an offense with major differences from the spread option the Illini employed in Zook's first five years. There is a learning curve, and it will take the Illini players awhile to acclimate.
"I think right now our guys are working extremely hard, putting in the time. They're excited about the change. I think everything's a challenge, especially the first year doing something. I think our guys are eager to learn what we're doing.
"I think from an offensive standpoint, we're gonna be multiple in what we do, but at the same time we'll tailor that around our players' strengths. Once we know who our starters are, we'll definitely tailor that around our strengths while still trying to do what we want to do."
Brohm has his work cut out for him as only one quarterback, redshirt sophomore Jacob Charest, has any playing experience. He might lose some sleep until Charest, redshirt freshman Nathan Scheelhaase and true freshman Chandler Whitmer (plus freshman Miles Osei in the fall) learn the system.
"That's a big question mark, probably one of the biggest we have on the team, especially the offense. And it's the most pivotal position. You've got to have a guy who's a tough, hardnosed leader on the field at that position while having the skills necessary to play.
"We've got guys that are young and inexperienced, and it's up to me and them and all of us to get those guys ready to go. I don't think they're shy one bit. I think they're ready to work hard and step up to the challenge. Hopefully we can get that done."
Brohm can't work with them directly until spring practice begins. They are practicing on their own while also participating in winter conditioning, but they need specific instruction. Brohm is in no hurry to name a starter, allowing competition to keep all three quarterbacks focused on the task at hand.
"I think right now we've got three guys here that are vying for the spot, and they're all pushing each other very hard right now. They've put in a lot of time on their own throwing routes numerous times a week, getting together and going over the plays, watching tape and doing a lot of extra stuff that as a quarterback is necessary.
"Because you've got to be sharp, you've got to know everything that's going on. I think them all being basically hungry to win that position, they're putting in the time to get it done."
Since the Illini have been almost exclusively in the shotgun before this year, simply learning to operate under center can be a difficult adjustment.
"Yeah, it is. But we'll definitely be in the shotgun enough that if some guys are better at that, we can definitely adjust as well. We want to have the threat of a running attack as well to take some of the pressure off the quarterback.
"We'll definitely tailor to their strengths, but we're gonna practice them to get better at everything, underneath center and the shotgun and then adjust from there."
Brohm sees the bigger picture. He knows his guys would love to play pro ball someday, so he wants to train them to prepare for the highest level. The higher the goals, the closer to perfection one can reach.
"One thing we like to do as well is train our guys to not only do well in our system, but we want to train them to have a chance at the next level if they want. All the training we're gonna do is for that. Once you set that in place, and then once it gets close to the season, you kind of decide maybe he's not quite there on this, not as good at this, then you adjust to their strengths."
Brohm was asked his general philosophy on making changes in a quarterback's throwing motion. Charest has what some people consider a hitch in his motion. In actuality, he was taught to flip his wrists to increase velocity of his throws, giving the impression of a hitch.
"I think everyone throws a little different, whether it's a quarterback or a pitcher. Some guys will come over the top, some guys will come more sidearm. Some guys are short and quick, some guys are a little longer in their delivery.
"I think what you want to do is analyze it and try to work the kinks out and improve upon it while keeping somewhat the same motion. Obviously, right now it's tough to do it since we're not allowed to work with them on the field.
"Yeah, we've looked at it (Charest) and addressed it. I've been in this territory before. With any delivery, we want it to be as short, tight, compact and over the top as you can. But we want it to still be somewhat the same motion. Work off of what they're doing."
In part two, Brohm provides more specifics of his plans for Illini quarterbacks, technical training including audibles and responding to a rush, and the ideal traits he looks for in recruiting.