Illinois quarterback Jeff George Jr. to transfer, quarterback Chayce Crouch retires

Illinois+quarterback+Jeff+George%2C+Jr.+lobs+a+pass+during+the+game+against+Rutgers+on+Saturday%2C+Oct.+24.++The+Illini+lost+35-24
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Illinois quarterback Jeff George Jr. to transfer, quarterback Chayce Crouch retires

Illinois quarterback Jeff George, Jr. lobs a pass during the game against Rutgers on Saturday, Oct. 24.  The Illini lost 35-24

Illinois quarterback Jeff George, Jr. lobs a pass during the game against Rutgers on Saturday, Oct. 24. The Illini lost 35-24

Quentin Shaw

Illinois quarterback Jeff George, Jr. lobs a pass during the game against Rutgers on Saturday, Oct. 24. The Illini lost 35-24

Quentin Shaw

Quentin Shaw

Illinois quarterback Jeff George, Jr. lobs a pass during the game against Rutgers on Saturday, Oct. 24. The Illini lost 35-24

By Gavin Good, Assistant sports editor

The Illinois football team lost two quarterbacks in the span of less than two hours.

Jeff George Jr. announced on Twitter Wednesday that he will be transferring from Illinois to finish out his two remaining years of collegiate eligibility.

George threw for 1,273 yards, seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions in seven appearances — and five starts — for the Illini this season, during which the team finished with a record of 2-10.

The Indianapolis, Indiana native passed for a team-high 308 yards in a 35-24 loss to Rutgers at Memorial Stadium on Oct. 14. He made significant contributions in the 2016 season as a redshirt freshman as well, starting five games in lieu of injuries to other quarterbacks Wes Lunt and Chayce Crouch.

He tweeted out a message expressing his gratitude to former Illinois head coaches Tim Beckman and Bill Cubit and current head coach Lovie Smith, and he noted that the decision was a difficult one to make.

“I say this with an extremely heavy heart as the Illini have been and will continue to be my family,” George tweeted. “I look forward to a new chapter in my life and what the future has in store for me.”

The Warren Central graduate was also named to the Academic All-Big Ten team this season.

George would have faced stiff competition for the starting job at quarterback next season from Crouch, who is expected to return for his senior year, as well as from sophomore Cam Thomas, incoming three-star recruit MJ Rivers and Peoria’s Coran Taylor, who is still expected to sign.

Shortly after the announcement that George will be transferring from Illinois, fellow quarterback Crouch announced via Twitter that he is going to “hang up the cleats” and end his football career.

Crouch, who fought through injuries in each of the last two seasons and was in and out as the starter at quarterback, played in seven games and made five starts this season for Illinois.

In those appearances, he completed 45 of 91 pass attempts for 443 yards and threw for one touchdown. Crouch threw four interceptions and added 88 rushing yards on 54 carries. He also played in two games at tight end and had his first career catch in a 45-16 loss at Iowa on Oct. 7, 2017. In Illinois’ 20-7 win over Western Kentucky on Sept. 9, 2017, Crouch completed a career-best 14 completions for 107 yards.

Crouch said his decision to come to Illinois was the best he ever made, and that he poured every piece of himself into the program.

“I sacrificed my body, flipping into the end zone just to make Memorial Stadium go crazy and grab some extra momentum,” Crouch tweeted. “Hell, I even changed positions in the middle of the season to see if I could help us out in a different way.”

Crouch was voted captain by his teammates for the season opener against Ball State — in which he threw for a career-high 145 yards — and at Ohio State, and he was named to the Academic All-Big Ten team.

Last season, Crouch was 18 for 32, passing for 249 yards and one touchdown in four games before he was sidelined for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury that required surgery. He led an Illinois comeback against Purdue with 137 rushing yards after starter Wes Lunt was injured, though the Boilermakers won 34-31 in overtime.

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