CHAMPAIGN — Brandon Peters' mind is full of nuggets about how to survive in college football. After all, he's entering his fourth year as a quarterback in a Big Ten program.
He does things like throw a ball away during training camp after a bad snap where nothing good could happen if he launched the ball downfield; or how to find similarities in five different playbooks to ease the growing pains; or when to simply check down to a running back when his receivers are covered — something running back Reggie Corbin said he hasn't had since Wes Lunt was the quarterback of the Illini.
Or, as offensive coordinator Rod Smith noticed from the press box during a game-like scrimmage at Memorial Stadium, where to sit.
Typically position players sit together on the sidelines after a series. It makes it easier to recap the successes and shortcomings of the previous drive. Peters didn't sit with his quarterbacks on the sideline in this particular instance. Instead, he chose to sit with the offensive linemen. He knows who gives him time and keeps him safe from defenders bearing down on him.
“You always have to be nice to your linemen," Peters said. "They’re the ones protecting you. Definitely keeping those guys happy is a good thing and making sure they like you as well."
Even from the press box, Smith noticed the small detail.
“It's the little things like that, that in my opinion, he’s a little bit head and shoulders ahead of the other guys from an experience standpoint," Smith said.
Those are the qualities that matter to head coach Lovie Smith, Rod Smith and the players. They're not worried about Peters steamrolling through the locker room, yelling at the top of his lungs. That's not who he is, but that's OK. Even still, Peters is becoming more vocal at the line of scrimmage and whispers bits of information to his running backs.
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“I think the more comfortable you get in a place, you’re more vocal," Lovie Smith said. "Brandon is not going to come in and start screaming and yelling and doing all that. They want their quarterback under control, and that’s what he’s done. They want him to be poised under pressure."
Peters was around plenty of experience in his three years at Michigan under coach Jim Harbaugh and inside a loaded quarterback room. That experience helped teach him the little details of playing the position and how to stay in the moment. He isn't looking past the season opener at 11 a.m. Saturday against Akron, no matter who is on the schedule in the following weeks — including an Oct. 12 home game against Michigan.
He also isn't looking too far back at his time with the Wolverines. He took lessons and experience from those years and is ready to apply those in Champaign.
Yes, it's been 20 months since his last start at quarterback — Jan. 1, 2018, to be exact; and yes, he said he had to take 43 credit hours in two-and-a-half semesters to be able to leave Ann Arbor with a college degree and enter the transfer portal as a graduate transfer. That process included football and sleepless nights. But that's behind him.
“It’s been a tough process, for sure, losing the QB battle at Michigan and trying to get all my credits in order so that I could graduate," Peters said. "Now that I’m in this role, there’s no looking back."
Peters has been in Champaign since the summer and has had time to get acclimated with his players, and they've gotten to know his strengths and weaknesses. The comparisons to Lunt, a former big-armed Illinois quarterback, have been circling around since Peters announced his commitment to Illinois. It's more than his arm, though, where Corbin sees the similarities.
“He’s smart," Corbin said. "His knowledge of the game is like no other. I compare it to Wes Lunt when he was here. When I was here, Wes Lunt was the smartest guy in the world to me. Being next to a guy like that and him being able to see things and whisper things to me and tell me something is crazy because I haven’t been around many guys like that."
On Saturday, Peters will take the field as the starting quarterback. He likely won't yell and scream at his teammates, but there are other ways he'll show his investment to a program that extended him his only Power Five offer after entering the transfer portal. It will be his chance to show his passion in a different way — a way his teammates have seen for a while.
“He’s got some swag to him," Corbin said. "He doesn’t speak much, but his actions are loud. If you really know football and you really pay attention to the game, you’ll see the things he does are rare."