The Illini went into last week as seven point underdogs. They brought it on defense and handled Western Kentucky 20-7. This week, they head to Tampa to take on South Florida. How to the Illini come out on top?
Film Room: Quinton Flowers
The Illini haven’t faced a quarterback like Quinton Flowers in this short season. Flowers is a serious dual threat who could give the Illinois defense fits. Here’s what he and the offense will throw at the defense this week.
The first big concept the Illini will see is the read option. Flowers gets big chunks of yardage off of that play. Illinois defensive front must stay disciplined in their gaps and keep an eye on Flowers. It’s hard to catch him in open space. Lovie is a great coach and will have a plan, but the key is for the freshman ends, Bobby Roundtree and Isaiah Gay, to remember the game plan and stay within it.
Flowers also works play action well and will take shots down field. He has solid deep accuracy, so the young secondary must stick with defenders. They may be left on an island with the defense focusing on the running game.
The learning curve begins now for this young Illini defense. Stopping Quinton Flowers is easier said than done.
How Does The Offense Find Its Spark?
It’s abundantly clear at this point that the running game is the strength of this team. Mike Epstein and Kendrick Foster provide explosiveness in the running game. Now, it’s up to Chayce Crouch and the passing offense to find a way to help.
The issue isn’t the receiving group. Mike Dudek and Malik Turner are very solid wide receivers, and they stack up decently in this conference. The issue revolves around the limitations of Crouch.
Last week, Crouch got caught staring at his first read quite a few times. On one play, he knew he wanted to go to Dudek, even though he had three defenders on him on a corner route. Stuff like that won’t come without consequences against South Florida. This is a better team that will have the first two games scouted.
If the running game stalls, Illinois must spread it out. Give Crouch a couple easy reads. Use the bootleg if need be. This offense has some firepower after the catch. It’s up to Crouch to use good footwork and go through his progression more. If that happens, the Illini can stay close tonight.
Jake Schyvinck covers the NFL, NFL Draft, and Illini Football for The Sports Guys. Follow him on Twitter @JSchyvinck13.