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In the retiring Chayce Crouch, Illinois loses second QB in one day

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Wednesday evening, Jeff George Jr. announced that he was leaving the Illinois football program as a graduate transfer.  A short time later, another of his fellow Fighting Illini quarterbacks confirmed his exit as well — albeit with a twist.

On his personal Twitter account, Chayce Crouch announced that not only is he leaving the Illini but he’s leaving the sport, period. “I don’t think there’s anything left to give,” the redshirt junior wrote. “I have decided to hang up the cleats and end my career as a Fighting Illini.

“At this point in my life, this is what is best for me.”

Crouch started the first four games of the 2017 season before being benched in favor of George Jr. in early October; he started another game later on in the year.  The Ohio native finishes his collegiate career completing 78 of his 157 passes for 852 yards, four touchdowns and six interceptions.  He also ran for 360 yards and another four touchdowns on 108 carries.

With the departures of Crouch and George, rising sophomore Cam Thomas is the only scholarship quarterback currently on the Illini’s roster.  A three-star recruit signed last December, MJ Rivers, won’t enroll until the summer.  There’s also the possibility of adding another recruit during the “usual” February signing period, and there’s also the possibility (probability?) that a graduate transfer at the position will be added as well.

Illinois QB Jeff George Jr. moving on as graduate transfer

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Illinois quarterback Jeff George Jr., the son of former NFL quarterback Jeff George, has announced he will look for an opportunity to play football elsewhere in 2018. In a statement shared on his Twitter account Wednesday afternoon, George said he will leave Illinois with a degree in hand, allowing him to pursue a transfer possibility as a graduate transfer.

Thank you to Coach [Lovie Smith] and the entire staff for helping me develop over the past couple years,” George said in his statement on Twitter. “With that being said, after discussions with Coach Smith as well as my family, it would be in my best interest to pursue my athletic career with 2 years of eligibility left at a school that will best utilize the abilities I have to offer.”

George played in seven games for the Illini in 2017 with 1,273 passing yards and seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The only other quarterbacks on the roster to attempt a pass last season were junior Chayce Crouch (who played quarterback in seven games and had 443 passing yards with one touchdown and four interceptions Cam Thomas, a redshirt freshman in 2017. Illinois also has two other freshmen on the roster — Charlie Reinkemeyer and Connor Kelly –  that should make for an interesting quarterback situation this spring.

As a graduate transfer, George will be eligible to play in the fall at any FBS program that welcomes him to their program.

Mack Brown, Frank Beamer, Ed Reed highlight College Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018

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Some very familiar names highlight the most recent additions to the College Football Hall of Fame.

In conjunction with the Hall, the National Football Foundation announced Monday morning a total of 13 individuals — 10 players and three coaches — who will be inducted as part of the Class of 2018.  One of those, Michigan’s Charles Woodson, was announced as an inductee on ESPN’s NFL pregame show Sunday.

Below are the baker’s dozen inductees:

PLAYERS
TREVOR COBB – RB, Rice (1989-92)
KERRY COLLINS – QB, Penn State (1991-94)
DAVE DICKENSON – QB, Montana (1992-95)
DANA HOWARD – LB, Illinois (1991-94)
CALVIN JOHNSON – WR, Georgia Tech (2004-06)
PAUL PALMER – RB, Temple (1983-86)
ED REED – DB, Miami [Fla.] (1998-2001)
MATT STINCHCOMB – OT, Georgia (1995-98)
AARON TAYLOR – C/OG, Nebraska (1994-97)
CHARLES WOODSON – DB, Michigan (1995-97)

COACHES
FRANK BEAMER – 280-144-4 (65.9%); Murray State (1981-86), Virginia Tech (1987-2015)
MACK BROWN – 244-122-1 (66.6%); Appalachian State (1983), Tulane (1985-87), North Carolina (1988-97), Texas (1998-2013)
MEL TJEERDSMA – 242-82-4 (74.4%); Austin College [Texas] (1984-93), Northwest Missouri State (1994-2010)

“We are extremely proud to announce the 2018 College Football Hall of Fame Class,” said College Football Hall of Famer and NFF chairman Archie Manning in a statement. “Each of these men has established himself among the absolute best to have ever played or coached the game, and we look forward to immortalizing their incredible accomplishments.”

The newest class will be inducted Dec. 4 of this year at the annual NFF awards dinner.

Lovie Smith dismisses two assistant coaches

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Illinois has fired offensive coordinator Garrick McGee and defensive backs coach Paul Williams, the program announced Tuesday. The news was first reported on Saturday by FootballScoop. (Full disclosure: I also work for FootballScoop.)

McGee, the former UAB head coach, spent two seasons on staff at Illinois after spending two seasons in a similar role at Louisville. The Fighting Illini ranked 96th nationally in yards per play in 2016 and 124th this fall. Illinois was also 124th and 126th in passing efficiency in McGee’s two seasons; McGee also coached the Illini’s quarterbacks.

Williams was also an original member of Lovie Smith‘s staff at Illinois after coaching defensive backs at Delaware, Western Michigan, Temple and Miami. The Illini were 72nd and 79th in pass efficiency defense under Williams.

Illinois is 5-19 in two seasons under Smith and has not booked a winning record since 2010.

Illinois grad transfer Tré Watson lands at Maryland

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As we tidy up from a day of opening presents and other such Christmas delights, how about we clean up some transfer news for good measure?

In late November, Tré Watson took to Twitter to announce that he would be transferring from Illinois.  Late last week, the linebacker took to the same social media website to announce that he will continue his collegiate playing career at Maryland.

As a graduate transfer, Watson is eligible to play immediately for the Terps in what will be his final season of eligibility.

In nine games this past season — he missed three because of an injury — Watson totaled 65 tackles, good for tied for third on the team. The linebacker’s 4.5 tackles for loss were tied for second on the Fighting Illini as well.

Last season, Watson earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors after starting eight of 12 games and finishing second on the team in tackles with 102.

Watson becomes the fourth FBS player, and third from a Power Five program, to transfer to Maryland since early September, joining defensive lineman Byron Cowart (Auburn), Marcus Lewis (Florida State) and Rayshad Lewis (Utah State).  Cowart will be eligible to play immediately in 2018 as a grad transfer, while the USU Lewis transfer, the son of Miami Hurricane legend Ray Lewis, and the FSU Lewis can play in 2018 after sitting out 2017, leaving them with three and two years of eligibility remaining, respectively.