Brohm Wants QB's With Toughness, Accuracy

Fighting Illini quarterbacks were recruited to operate the spread option attack. Now, they must modify their approach to accommodate an offense that has pro-style characteristics. Quarterback coach Jeff Brohm will pick his best quarterback and then work with offensive coordinator Paul Petrino to modify the offense to fit the quarterback (Part 2).

Jeff Brohm coached both a running quarterback in Stefan LeFors and a pro-style quarterback in brother Brian Brohm while at Louisville. Now at Illinois, Brohm has a similar mixture of styles among his qb candidates. Jacob Charest and Chandler Whitmer are more comfortable staying in the pocket, while Nathan Scheelhaase and Miles Osei have more of a pass/run option.

How will he be able to pick between the two styles of quarterback?

"We're gonna try to get both of them to do all those things. As we get closer, we'll pull back and tailor it to their strengths.

"I think the good thing is, when we were all (Brohm, Petrino and Greg Nord) at Louisville together for four years, we had a pro-style drop back passer in my brother Brian, and we had a very athletic guy that could run around in Stefan LeFors, who didn't have a strong arm. But yet he was real athletic and tough. And he led the country in total passing efficiency.

"I think definitely when it gets closer to the game, you have to do what they do best. But, we want to be as balanced as we can and have the threat of doing a bunch of things. And always be on the attack. Luckily, we've been there before with two types of guys, and hopefully we can use that experience to help us."

The new offense requires more responsibility from the quarterback. The quarterback must occasionally audible out of a play call depending on the defensive alignment rather than having the coaches change the play from the Press Box. Quarterbacks must have total command of the options available to counter each defensive alignment.

It will take awhile for Illini quarterbacks to acclimate to the new approach.

"We're definitely gonna train them to do all that. I think nowadays some teams will disguise things a little more than in the past. Because of that, you want to have numerous plays that you don't have to check off. You can get up there and go. We'll balance that out.

"Definitely we'll have some checks here and there, but it's not gonna be something we'll base the offense on. The year we were 12-1 and won the Orange Bowl, the one game we lost, when we look back on it, we were a little too check-happy that game. I think we learned from that.

"We know that defenses are smart as well, and you can't be too check-happy. Get up there and run, call plays that are good against anything and then react when the ball's snapped."

Calmness in the pocket is an extremely important trait in a quarterback. This became evident when a former Illini quarterback tended to panic when looking downfield in the face of a strong rush. A coach said of him, 'He sees 14 defenders when he looks downfield.' Fear prevented him from seeing his options clearly.

Is this something that can be noticed on film during the recruiting process?

"You can observe it some (on film). It is an important quality. I think when guys get here, some are better at it than others. It's something that you have to train. It's easy to say I'll stand in there and make the throw, but you've got to put them in situations that, whether you come at them with dummies or guys with hands in their faces, are as real as you can.

"A lot of times, when the bullets are flying at you, it's a lot tougher than people think. What we try to do as well is, you've got to train guys for the game and simulate that as close as you can and as much as you can.

"You've got to be fast with it, do it over and over again, push them to be the best in practice so that when they get in the game, it's a lot easier. Sometimes, if you just go through the motions in practice, you don't really pay attention to that. To me, that's not training someone. Throwing something in skellys (skeleton drills) or in routes is totally different in a game with 11 guys on both sides and a bunch of guys coming at you.

"I think it makes a difference. Hopefully, I can train and put our quarterbacks in this position every day in practice so that when they get in a game, it's much easier and they can relax and go for it."

Brohm considers toughness the most important trait when recruiting quarterbacks.

"One huge quality you need as a quarterback is toughness. You have to be able to stand in there and deliver and take the hit. Over and over again. And you have to have a calmness to that. Some guys' personalities are good at that, sometimes you have to train them a little bit. You have to have those characteristics.

"A defensive coach is gonna tell you, 'The more chances I have to hit the quarterback, the better chance I have to win the game.' It's a true statement. Quarterbacks have to know that. You've got to train them to be tough and have poise. But you can definitely notice that watching tape in high school."

Besides toughness, Brohm looks for accuracy and leadership.

"Those are three important qualities. When looking at guys on tape, we want guys that can throw the ball. They don't have to be tremendous throwers, but we want guys that can throw the ball with at least adequate arm strength and can show some accuracy.

"Obviously, you'd like them as athletic as you can. But they don't have to be tremendous athletes. They have to be able to run and move a little bit. And then you want guys that can play the position, that have savvy, can make good decisions. Just watching them you can tell they have a great feel and can play the position.

"And then you just try to balance all that as much as you can and then get them here and train them as hard as you can. Sometimes it's harder just to spell it out.

"Luckily I've seen a lot of great ones and been around a lot of great ones, so I think I've kind of got an idea what they look like and what they can do. We're gonna go after the top guys and see what we can get and then work down."

All Illinois assistant coaches have assigned areas. Brohm has recruited extensively in southern Ohio, Kentucky, and parts of Florida. He will combine part of that area with an area within Illinois as his specific recruiting territory.

In a departure from past years, each assistant coach is also responsible for contacting top players nationally at his position(s). In some cases, they are merely throwing out bait and hoping someone takes a nibble. Regardless, they want the best players they can find, wherever they happen to live.

"I think now I will have the southern half of Illinois outside of the immediate St. Louis area plus southern Ohio, Columbus, Dayton down to Cincinnati. And then I'll have the southeast area of Florida. Not Lauderdale or Miami, but Palm Beach County up the Treasure Coast a little bit. And then quarterbacks.

"Obviously, as a recruiter I'm gonna go after that area, but I'm gonna go after guys. I already have my quarterback list, have it all set and just work right down that. Each position coach needs to recruit their position and be on top of that."

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