Given the offensive struggles through the first quarter of the season, it was only a matter of time before the trigger was pulled.
Monday, Lovie Smith confirmed that Jeff George Jr. will replace Chayce Crouch as Illinois’ starting quarterback, beginning with Saturday’s game on the road at Iowa. Not only is Crouch no longer the starter, but tue freshman Cam Thomas will serve as George’s backup, effectively turning the ousted starter into the No. 3 quarterback for the foreseeable future.
“(Making a change at the position) is definitely necessary to give us the opportunity to push the ball downfield and use all of our weapons,” offensive coordinator Garrick McGee said according to the Decatur Herald & Review.
Through four games, the Illini are 113th in the country in passing yards per game and 114th in points per game. They’re last in the Big Ten in the latter category, and ahead of only Rutgers in the former.
Of the 119 individual quarterbacks listed on the NCAA’s official stats website, only three — Charlotte’s Hasaan Klugh (91.9), Ball State’s Jack Milas (91.8), Rice’s Jackson Tyner (91.5) — have lower pass efficiency rating than the junior Crouch’s 93.7.
“Chayce was not playing the way everyone anticipated him playing,” the coordinator bluntly stated. “He has a little more development to do in terms of seeing the field and keeping his eyes on the coverage. His eyes tend to drop down and he misses a lot of guys running open down the field. And he understands that.”
As for George, the son of Illini legend Jeff George, he started four games as a redshirt freshman last season. This season, he’s played in one game, completing 12-of-21 passes for 211 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in a 47-23 loss to South Florida in Week 3.