Jacob Charest To Transfer From Illinois

The inexperience of the Fighting Illini quarterback corps became pronounced with the decision of redshirt sophomore Jacob Charest to seek a transfer. Charest is the only UI quarterback with any game experience, playing in four games last season. The Illini had already decided to go with Nathan Scheelhaase as a starter out of spring ball, but only freshmen now back him up.

Jacob Charest has decided he needs to be closer to home and has asked for his release from the University of Illinois according to The News-Gazette. The Charlotte, North Carolina, native has not yet announced where he will transfer, but he is seeking a school where his close-knit family can watch him play.

Illinois now faces a severe quarterback shortage. Scheelhaase is a redshirt freshman, and his only backups are true freshmen Chandler Whitmer and Miles Osei.

Scheelhaase impressed everyone with his speed, leadership, passing accuracy and overall knowledge of the offense this spring, but he has never taken a college snap and might be injury-prone given his propensity to run frequently. Whitmer enrolled early and asserted himself well, but freshmen rarely perform well in the rugged Big 10. And Osei will be joining the fray this summer.

Senior Eddie McGee could be an option at quarterback, but he was moved to receiver in the spring and seems more comfortable there. McGee has four years under his belt as a UI quarterback, and Illini coaches used him some in a "wildcat" formation that utilized his explosive speed and overall skills this spring. Whether he could finally mature as an every-down quarterback is questionable at this point.

Charest appeared in four games for the Illini last fall, starting the Northwestern game. He completed 28 of 56 passes for 382 yards and two touchdowns. He also threw two interceptions. He replaced Juice Williams early in the Minnesota game and led the Illini to an upset victory in Minneapolis.

He showed impressive calmness in the pocket, ignoring the rush while going through his progressions. And he proved a better leader than most expected when given the chance.

However, the laid-back, easy-going Charest frustrated offensive coaches last year and again with a new group this spring because they wanted him to show more fire and intensity during practice and scrimmages. While he may be at his best in live game action, it is hard to assume that when he doesn't show it daily in practice. It was a dilemma that proved as frustrating for Charest as his coaches.

He was thought to be unhappy with his situation at Illinois. Many believed he would see his first action in the route of Illinois State early last fall, but he wasn't included in the offensive game plan and received no preparatory opportunities during the week. He led an impressive drive during the Purdue game only to be replaced at the two yard line. He was replaced again after trailing Northwestern 7-3.

Whether these situations contributed to any frustration, he was noticeably inconsistent during the spring. He gave himself little chance to compete for a starting berth, throwing multiple interceptions the first week of camp. With the Illini also not overloaded with receiver speed and dominant offensive linemen, a pocket passer must be outstanding to run a true pro-style offense.

Scheelhaase has the speed to add a new dimension to the Illini offense, so Offensive Coordinator Paul Petrino began to adapt his offense to fit Scheelhaase's style. This further placed Charest in an untenable position. He is a hard runner, but he lacks the lateral quickness of Scheelhaase. Everything combined to make it difficult for Charest to rationalize staying at Illinois.

Charest has potential to be a fine quarterback in the right system. His task now is to find a school that appreciates his abilities and gives him a chance in the limelight. In the meantime, Illinois will be watching its quarterback situation closely, looking for ways to teach a rookie quarterback how to win against a difficult schedule.

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