Brandon Peters is coming off a resurgent season with the Illinois football team where, when healthy, looked like a top tier Big Ten quarterback at times.
Peters threw for 1,884 yards and 18 touchdowns with only 8 interceptions on a 55.3-percent completion percentage. While the bright spots were there at times, Peters showed a lack of consistency in his transition to a new system under offensive coordinator Rod Smith.
Out of 11 games, Peters had a completion percentage of under 55-percent. In games where he had at least one interception, the Illini went 2-5. In games where Peters did not have a turnover, the Illini went 4-0.
While Coach Smith has faced due critique because of the inability to score the ball efficiently, all signs point towards the fact that if the Illini take care of the ball, he and Peters will be able to manufacture enough points to win games.
With the progress, what can we expect to see from Peters in his final campaign with the Illini?
As a veteran, I expect Coach Smith to trust Peters to throw the ball around more. Consequently, I believe Peters will take care of the ball more and raise his completion percentage towards the 60-percent range. Coach Smith’s fast-paced offense is not the easiest to catch up on, as it largely is focused on rhythm, progression and option decision making.
The Illini will be without their top three rushers from 2019 and the fourth top rusher was Peters himself, but they do return five of the top seven receiving options from last season. The script plays out nicely for Peters, who gets to add more new receiving options, Luke Ford and Brian Hightower in specific, to what might finally be a position of depth in 2020. This group has the potential to go six deep consisting of strong, versatile pass-catching options out wide and in the slot.
I expect Coach Smith to unload a strong committee of Mike Epstein, Reggie Love, Chase Brown and Jakari Norwood who can bring to the table a multitude of options in terms of power running or receiving threats out of the backfield. Expect Epstein and Norwood to become favorite options for Peters as shifty pass catchers who can rack up extra yards in the open field.
Jim Nagy, an ESPN Draft Analyst, labeled Peters as a prospect with the most to gain from the Big Ten reinstatement of football this fall, providing a strong scope of what we could expect to see from the Senior gunslinger.
Coach Smith is entering year three at Illinois with the most purely talented quarterback thus far in his tenure along with an incredibly strong offensive line surrounded by an assortment of transfer options and players he recruited. The time is certainly now for Coach Smith and Peters to put it all on the table and pursue the all-around potential of this offense.
Peters has to be the catalyst to display the talented pieces around him. The following three developments will be the keys to Peters’ 2020 season: Decision making efficiency, being a threat to throw deep and completion percentage.
Peters has to spread the ball around and he has to do so quickly. The options around Peters are talented, but we have yet to see a healthy diet of a balanced, prominent passing and running attack in consistency under Coach Smith. The wealth of options around Peters as well as the experience under his belt should naturally bring up his completion percentage but expect Peters to focus on racking up completions to improve the rhythm offensively.
Expect a confident Peters in 2020 as well. He transferred from Michigan to pursue greater opportunity and what the Illini have assembled for this year appears to be all that and more. Expect moments where Peters appears to have NFL potential, but other moments where he forces the hand and requires time to adapt to a new receiving corps. I expect him to largely be a bright spot for the Illini once again in his final season in Champaign.
8 games, 1,544 passing yards, 17 touchdowns, 6 interceptions, 60.6% completion percentage