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Should Illinois Football Have a QB Discussion?



John Paddock
Nov 4, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini quarterback John Paddock (4) celebrates the win after the game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Huntington Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Bret Bielema says there’s no controversy between John Paddock and Luke Altmyer. Should there be?

“We thought Luke would be cleared to play, but by midweek, we could see it wasn’t going to happen.” “He’s cleared now. Do we have a quarterback controversy? No, I think we have two good quarterbacks.” Illini head coach Bret Bielema said this after their 48-45 overtime win against the Indiana Hoosiers Saturday afternoon.

Screenwriters cannot write a better script than Ball State transfer quarterback John Paddock’s last 14 days have been. First, Minnesota injures Luke Altmyer late in the fourth quarter. Paddock comes into the game knowing this drive has to be a game-winner. What does he do? He drops three dimes, including a 46-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Williams, while two defenders hit him.

Paddock heard the cheers and decided to come out for an encore. What does he do against Indiana? Have the second most passing yards in college football (507), second only to Sheduer Sanders’ (526), and the most passing yards in the Big Ten this season. Oh, and he led the Illini to another game-winner, finding Isaiah Williams again, this time for a 21-yard touchdown pass.

The offense had a bounce and swagger they didn’t have, with Luke Altmyer behind center. So, should John Paddock “Wally Pip” Luke Altmyer?

The Case for Altmyer.

The walk-off win was their third of the year, and four of their five wins have come in the last minute. We know that Paddock has two of those. That means Altmyer has the other two. Altmyer led the Illini to a walk-off in the season opener against Toldeo and a come-from-behind win against Maryland. Unlike Paddock, Altmyer is a first-year starter who took his lumps but began to play better. Since the Penn State game — his worst game of the year — Altmyer has thrown ten touchdowns and three interceptions.

Altmyer played well against Minnesota before getting knocked out of the game. If the defense could have finished — and Jer’Zhan Newton didn’t get disqualified — they beat Wisconsin.

The question is whether or not Paddock gives them a chance to win one of their two games. They can beat Northwestern with Altmyer or Paddock. If you look at Indiana’s three weeks before the Illinois game, you could argue the Hoosiers were out of gas. Paddock had all day to go through his progressions and find the open receiver. He might not get that much time against Iowa. If that’s the case, is he a plus in the run game like Altmyer?

You never want a player to lose his spot because of injury, but the Illinois staff cannot deny how the offense has looked with Paddock. It might not happen, but it should at least be a discussion.

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Armchair Illini is a comprehensive site dedicated to covering University of Illinois Athletics owned and operated by Alex Kyi. Dante Pryor has been writing about College Football for years on Saturday Blitz and is now the Lead Football Author for Armchair Illini.