CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Illinois quarterback Brandon Peters is getting comfortable being uncomfortable. The super-senior is being pushed daily by new Illini offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tony Petersen, along with head coach Bret Bielema. It’s all in an effort to get the veteran to step out of his shell and lead his team more vocally.
“The amount of growth I’ve seen over these last eight months from the past, it’s wild, it’s crazy,” Peters said. “You know that’s a big part of it is leadership at the quarterback position and Coach Petersen has really got on me about pushing my tone, pushing my leadership so he’s been a huge part in developing me.”
“We’ve talked about it, he’s working on it and he enjoys now the pressure on him and having to react to it and he’s getting better everyday,” Petersen added.
Change has been a big part of Peters’ college experience. He had to count on his fingers to remember how many offensive coordinator’s he’s played for. It added up to five different guys. With each one, a new system, and calls to learn.
“That’s pretty crazy, it’s been a ride,” Peters said.
But it may be Petersen’s pro-style, run first approach that fits Peters best. The Illini OC isn’t asking his QB to win the game by himself, instead relying on a deep running back room to carry the load. Experience is the other big factor that should contribute to success. With 16 starts in two years in Champaign, the Indiana native has a lot to lean on. Peters has completed 53 percent of his passes at Illinois, throwing for 2,313 yards and 21 touchdowns, to go along with 8 interceptions. After finishing up a COVID-19 shortened season in 2020 that saw him miss three games after contracting the virus, Peters had a tough choice to make whether to return or not for a sixth season.
“You know I felt like I wasn’t ready to move on and from the first day I met Coach B, I loved what he preached, love what he said and it just hooked me in,” he said.
Peters spent the summer working out in Champaign with a retooled room of receivers that includes former quarterback Isaiah Williams. Just two days into camp it’s tough to tell how they will utilize the standout athlete but more than any scheme, Bielema wants his QB1 to continue taking leadership roles on and off the field.
“He’s got all the intangibles,” Bielema said. “He’s big, he’s tall, he’s pretty, he throws a really good ball, things that we’ve really tried to stress on him is communication. I think a quarterback of his stature should have that in his wheelhouse so he’s got to start walking the walk of a quarterback.”