CHICAGO — Lovie Smith was finally able to talk about Brandon Peters, who will be right in the middle of the battle for Illinois' starting quarterback spot.
Peters is a graduate transfer from Michigan and has two years of eligibility remaining. He'll fight for the job with incoming freshman Isaiah Williams and redshirt freshmen Matt Robinson and Coran Taylor.
Peters brings much-needed experience to the quarterback room. He's a 6-foot-5, 230-pounder who started four games in 2017 for the Wolverines and appeared in five games in 2018. He was 58-of-110 during his time at Michigan, throwing for 680 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions.
He was a four-star recruit out of Avon, Ind., in the Class of 2016. According to the 247Sports recruiting profile, he was listed as a pro-style quarterback who chose Michigan over offers from Iowa, Indiana, Arkansas, Boston College and more.
“We wanted a player with experience and a guy who had played at a high level," Smith said on Thursday during the first day of Big Ten Media Days in Chicago. "He started at one of the top programs in the country. Eventually quarterbacks have to be able to throw the football, Brandon can throw it.
“The first thing he said is, ‘Coach, I’m a better athlete than I’m given credit for.’ I just like talking ball with him, what little I’ve had a chance to do. I just think he can bring something different to our team. He chose us.
Peters' name was almost immediately followed by Smith talking about Isaiah Williams, the four-star incoming freshman from Trinity Catholic High School in St. Louis. The two will likely play key roles in the quarterback competition by the time training camp opens on Aug. 2.
In Peters, Illinois has a player who has played in a college football game.
“We felt like we needed more, as simple as that," Smith said. "We’re really excited about Isaiah Williams coming in. We feel like he’s going to bring a lot of excitement, eventually, to our football team. I wanted a guy with some experience, too. It just worked out that way. Brandon became available late and we got together. It felt like a good marriage and we’re excited about what he’s going to do with our program. A different skill set."
Players visit Roundtree
The three players who represented Illinois at Media Days — Reggie Corbin, Nate Hobbs and Alex Palczewski — visited Bobby Roundtree in Chicago on Thursday morning. Roundtree was transported in June to a rehab facility in Chicago after suffering a severe spinal injury near his hometown of Largo, Fla. in May.
Smith visited Roundtree last week and plans to visit before returning to Champaign-Urbana. Smith opened his press conference by thanking people for the well-wishes for Roundtree.
"When you go through tough times, you really see the good in people, and so many of you have reached out to us," Smith said. "Bobby has a long road ahead. He's fighting every day to get back. We have a long-term plan for him, but again, thank you."
Corbin said the news was "heartbreaking" when news started circulating of his injury in May. He said Roundtree was in high spirits on Thursday when they visited him. The plan is still to transition Roundtree from Chicago to Illinois at some point.
"I know he would love to be with us," Corbin said. "He's our still our brother, man. He's going to be back with us soon and I can't wait."
Roundtree exploded onto the scene as a freshman and turned in a big sophomore year with 66 tackles, 7.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for a loss. It's easy to keep pushing, Corbin said, when that's exactly what Roundtree would be doing if he were able to.
Corbin on watch lists
On Wednesday, Corbin was added to the Doak Walker Award watch list. Last week he was put on the watch list for the Maxwell Award, the award given to the College Football Player of the Year.
Corbin rushed for 1,085 yards and nine touchdowns last season, becoming the first Illini since 2011 to rush for more than 1,000 yards and the 13th player in the history of the program to rush for 1,000 yards in a season.
The Doak Walker Award was created in 1989 to recognize the nation's premier running back for his accomplishments on the field, achievement in the classroom and citizenship in the community. It is the only major collegiate football award that requires all candidates to be in good academic standing and on schedule to graduate within one year of other students of the same classification.
Corbin found out he was on the lists on Twitter.
"I just know that it gives me a bigger platform and helps me give a bigger impact when I give back," Corbin said. "To know that I'm up for something like that, I'll be able to show my kids one day and all the kids who look up to me back home, my family and everyone who is proud of me to let them know anything is possible."
Illini get donation from Liuget
The University of Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Athletics today announced a gift of $250,000 from Illini football great and eight-year NFL veteran Corey Liuget. Liuget's gift will go toward the completion of the Henry Dale and Betty Smith Football Center, which will feature the naming of the players lounge as the Corey Liuget Players' Lounge.
"The University of Illinois shaped me to be a hard worker and showed me how important it is to stay on track and to achieve your goals," Liuget said in a statement. "I wanted to make this gift and put my name on the Players' Lounge because I want recruits to see that we have football traditions, players in the NFL, first-round picks. Illinois can make you whatever you want to be."
The 4,111-square foot Corey Liuget Players' Lounge will be adjacent to the locker room and features a digital gaming area with flat panel displays and comfortable furniture and an active gaming area complete with a pool table, foosball, ping pong, shuffleboard and a nutrition area.