Chayce Crouch Needs to Be More Illini Kyle Orton than Rex Grossman



History exists so that we may derive where we are going based upon where we have been. Saturday night brought the first green shoots of growth in the Illini football garden that head coach Lovie Smith has planted. The roots have taken hold, and a very commanding 20-7 win over Western Kentucky conveys the first real signs of true progress within the program.

Quarterback Chayce Crouch will be a major factor in determining the pace and the magnitude of that progress. Smith said at B1G Media Day that “Chayce is our quarterback,” and at least partially, it’s an allusion to his days as Chicago Bears head coach, during the period when you had a Kyle Orton versus Rex Grossman position battle.

chayce crouch

At this level, in this current situation, Chayce Crouch and his team are much better served by his development into an Orton style game-manager. Yes, that phrase is tediously overused, but it’s also a reality, and it’s the perfect complement to what Smith has in the works at Illinois.

Smith has coached just 14 games at Illinois, winning only four thus far, but the victory over WKU was by far the biggest and best performance to emerge from that small sample size. That’s because we saw Smith accomplish a triumph that was actually much more commanding and thorough than it may first appear in the box score.


When you play football this way- shut down the opposition’s run game, dominate the time of possession with a Woody Hayes “three yards and a cloud of dust” style running attack, and score via your defense, a 20-0 fourth quarter lead is much more decisive than it appears on paper.

Even a 20-7 advantage midway through the fourth is more of a settled result than you might think. Perhaps that’s why so many fans left Memorial Stadium at halftime?

With even more vacating in the third quarter? Did they know the game was already over or was it just getting to be past their bed time?


Whatever the reason, they really should have stayed because they could have witnessed more steps in the progress of the program. Pulling off the eight point upset and ending the Hilltoppers nine game winning streak was huge.

“We’re a very self-motivating team,” Crouch said about the point spread disrespect providing motivation.

“I think our program has been through a lot, so it doesn’t really take much to motivate us at all. We come into every game hungry. You have the underdog at home thing. No matter who we’re playing, yeah, it’s a little bit of disrespect, we felt like. Really internally, we’re a very motivated football team.”

Crouch, a big 6-4 play-maker who always poses a threat to tuck it and run, complements this game management philosophy just like Orton did much more so than Grossman.

It’s all about making sure that you aren’t the reason the game is lost, via poor decisions. On the flip side, you don’t have to go out and win the game either, as you can rely on your running game and defense to do so.


We saw Crouch throw deep into double and triple coverage Saturday night, a la Grossman. Obviously that needs to be discouraged. We also saw him hand the ball off to Mike Epstein and the rest of the offensive backfield, allow the running game to eat up yards and clock; a la Orton. This behavior needs to be encouraged. (Yes, this is the Captain Obvious section of the article)

Also, that previously mentioned run element Crouch possesses is not something we really saw much in Orton or Grossman.

Perhaps most importantly, Chayce Crouch has established himself as a leader among his teammates, and an individual that the coaching staff believes in.

Right now, the passing offense is the weakest link of this team, and thus, naturally the place with the most room for improvement. Crouch knows there’s plenty of work to be done.


“We can be a lot more explosive and we all know that,” Crouch said.

“We left a lot of yards out on the table today. We’re going to keep working and eventually it’s going to get clicking at the right time. We’re not there early but we’re 2-0 without playing our best ball offensively and that speaks volumes about this football team.”

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now and Minute Media. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, NBC and Chicago, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV and Chicago Now.

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