Instead of waiting a year for the quarterback room to clear out, Jimmy Fitzgerald has decided to get out of Champaign.
In a press release Wednesday, Illinois announced that Fitzgerald has decided to transfer from the Illini. The redshirt freshman had been listed co-No. 3 a,long with Jeff George Jr., behind starter Wes Lunt, and backup redshirt sophomore Chayce Crouch.
With Lunt being a senior, Fitzgerald was expected to battle Crouch and George for the starting job next year. Instead, he’ll be on the hunt for a new school.
“After much thought and discussion with my family, I have decided to leave the Illinois football program and consider other opportunities for my collegiate career,” Fitzgerald said in a statement. “I want to thank all the coaches I’ve played for and worked with at Illinois, including Coach Beckman, Coach Cubit and Coach Smith. My Illini teammates are an incredible bunch of guys and many will remain friends for life. Having grown up in this community,
“I’ve been a life-long fan of the Fighting Illini and it was a fantastic thrill and opportunity to wear the orange and blue. I know there are great things in the future for the Fighting Illini, but I feel this is the time for a fresh start in my collegiate career.”
A three-star member of the Illini’s 2015 recruiting class, Fitzgerald was rated as the No. 33 pro-style quarterbacks in the country and the No. 21 player at any position in the state of Illinois. The Champaign native took a redshirt as a true freshman last season.
Fitzgerald chose his home school over offers from FIU and Western Michigan. Harvard and Yale offered scholarships as well.
“I met with Jimmy Tuesday evening and we discussed his future as he has decided to leave our program,” first-year head coach Lovie Smith said. “We wish Jimmy nothing but the best as he moves forward with his career. He is a terrific young man who has the respect of his teammates and all our coaches. Sometimes it just seems to a young man that the best move is to try and get a fresh start, and this is what is happening in this situation.”