Chayce Crouch knows he can be the guy for Illinois football


Austin Yattoni

Illinois backup quarterback Chayce Crouch (7) looks to pass the ball during the game against Purdue at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, October 8. The Illini lost 34-31.

By Jacob Diaz, Staff writer

Chayce Crouch has always felt like he was the guy. Even last year when he entered the season as a backup, he knew that he had what it takes to be a leader, on and off the field.

“The role I have been put in is different (from last season),” Crouch said. “Deep down, I always felt like I was the guy. I always had the confidence.”

Crouch doesn’t just bring his leadership to the field though. He demonstrated in his four games last season that he can do a ton of damage when he breaks out of the pocket, rushing for 176 yards in those four games.

In a point in time where mobile quarterbacks are very much the status quo in college games, former Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt was very much the opposite.

The “pro-style” pocket passer led the Illini attack for three seasons, only ever running the ball across the goal line one time. Crouch has already done so three times, despite this being his first season as the starting quarterback.

By taking the reigns of the offense, Crouch ushers in a new style that can give defenses headaches. Head coach Lovie Smith openly admitted on Monday that he, like most defense-first coaches, would prefer to play a quarterback that just stayed in the pocket and distributed the ball.

“Once you bring in that quarterback that can run the football,” Smith said. “That’s a whole different animal.”

Despite that, Smith is excited to see what Crouch can do with his feet.

“We like what he can do throwing the football,” Smith said. “But when that breaks down, we can get production from his legs. As a defensive guy, to have to account for another man, it makes it hard.”

Crouch’s style of play will force defenses into thinking twice before committing all of their men to pass or run coverage, because at any point if Crouch sees open field he is liable to take off towards it. Just his presence on the field should open play up for the players around him.

And while it might seem like a tall task to block for a quarterback who may not stay in the space you make for him, the Illini offensive linemen say that blocking for Crouch actually won’t be much different than blocking for Lunt.

“At the end of the day, our goal is to keep our bodies between our guy and the quarterback,” senior linemen Christian DiLauro said. “In order to get a sack, they have to go through us.”

Dilauro’s teammate, Gabe Megginson, said a similar statement about blocking for Crouch.

“We know we’re gonna have to hold our ground if he wants that deep ball, and if he scrambles, that’s on him,” Megginson said. “He’ll take care of us, he won’t let a sack happen, so knowing that he’s gonna take care of us motivates us more.”

While many of his teammates and coaches were quick to praise Crouch’s leadership and passion for football, maybe no one is as excited for his arrival as a starter than the person who will be lining up behind him, Kendrick Foster.

“He can throw the deep ball and he can run,” Foster said. “In college football if you have a quarterback who can throw the deep ball and run, it just makes your job as a running back so much easier.”

Foster says that Crouch’s grittiness and personality make him a great leader on the field, and as a dual-threat he will create opportunities for Foster in both the aerial and the ground game. Foster is licking his chops just thinking about it.

“As you can see with Braxton Miller and Ohio State, having a running quarterback really helps the odds of winning,” Foster said. “And I mean him – his leadership, his throwing ability, his legs and his toughness – unmatchable.”

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