Illinois coach Lovie Smith announced that Jeff George Jr. will replace Chayce Crouch as the Illini’s quarterback, beginning with Saturday’s Big Ten road opener at Iowa.
Crouch was dropped to No. 3 on the depth chart, with true freshman Cam Thomas set to serve as George’s primary backup.
“(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.
George, the son of Illini legend Jeff George, started four games as a redshirt freshman last season. He has appeared in one game this season, completing 12 of 21 passes for 211 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in a 47-23 loss to South Florida in Week 3.
The Illini (2-2 overall, 0-1 Big Ten) rank 113th in the FBS in passing yards per game and 114th in points per game. Crouch’s 93.7 passer rating is the fourth-lowest in the nation. The junior started Illinois’ first four games of the season.
“Chayce was not playing the way everyone anticipated him playing,” McGee said. “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.”
Thomas, who attended Marian Catholic and was also a track star in high school, returned from a suspension last week.
“We’re really happy with him,” McGee said. “He could be one of the fastest guys we have and his big hands give him an opportunity to really spin the ball. He’s taller, so he can see what’s going on. We love him.”