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Ten best Quarterbacks in Fighting Illini history



Jack Trudeau, Illinois Athletics Hall of Fame
Jan 2, 1984; Pasadena, CA, USA: FILE PHOTO; Illinois Fighting Illini quarterback Jack Trudeau (10) in action against the UCLA Bruins during the 1984 Rose Bowl where UCLA beat Illinois 45-9. Mandatory Credit: Long Photography-USA TODAY Sports

Ten best Quarterbacks in Fighting Illini history

The Illinois Fighting Illini have had some great quarterbacks in its history. As a result, it is difficult to pare this list down to ten. There were some things taken into consideration. For example, every quarterback on this list played in the last forty years. So, no old-school Illini from the 60s and 70s, sorry guys. Wins and where they sit on Illinois’ all-time passing list were also considered. Did your favorite Illini QB make the list?

Quarterbacks 1-4

1. Kurt Kittner (1998-2001): An in-state high school recruit from Schaumburg, Kittner is arguably the most successful and prolific quarterback in program history. Kittner ended his career second all-time in passing yards, first all-time in career touchdown passes, single-season touchdown passes, and pass attempts. The Illini were 24-13 with Kittner as the starting quarterback, the best in school history. He ended his career leading the Illini to a Big Ten Championship and a Sugar Bowl.

2. Jack Trudeau (1981-1985): One of the more exciting aspects of Trudeau’s career in Champaign is his best season came in his first season as a starter. Trudeau led the Illini to a 9-0 record and a Big Ten Title as a redshirt sophomore. He is one of two quarterbacks on this list that had no losing seasons in his career. Trudeau set a record with 215 pass attempts without an interception. He finished his career first all-time in attempts, completions, yards, and touchdowns.

3. Isiah “Juice”  Williams (2006-2009): Perhaps there is no more exciting player on this list than Isiah “Juice” Williams. The Chicago Vocational High School product is fourth all-time in passing yards and second all-time in passing touchdowns. Not only is he one of the most dynamic passers in school history, but he is also one of the most dynamic runners in program history. Williams is 8th all-time in rushing yards. He continued the tradition of Chicago Public League players starring at Illinois. Chicago Bears legend Dick Butkus is a fellow Chicago Vocational High School alum.

4. Tony Eason (1981-1982):  Unfortunately for Tony Eason, his claim to fame is one of the quarterbacks taken before Dan Marino. However, Eason is one of the most prolific passers in Illinois history. The California native set the single-season record for passing yards in a season and broke it the next season. He is also the only quarterback in program history to average over 300 yards per game. Eason left Champaign with eight single-season or job passing records in two short years.

Quarterbacks 5-8

5. Nathan Scheelhaase (2010-2013): Another dual-threat quarterback, Scheelhaase, is Illinois’ all-time leader in yards from scrimmage. He and running back Mikel Leshoure were one of the best quarterback/running back combinations in school history. The Missouri native would lead the Illini to consecutive bowl games his first two years as starting quarterback. In addition, he led Illinois to its first bowl win in over a decade, winning the 2010 Texas Bowl.

 6. Jason Verduzco (1989-1992): Verduzco was the backup on the 1989 team that won ten games and the Citrus Bowl. Though Verduzco would not reach that level of success, he did carve out a fine career for himself in Champaign. The Illini won 20 games and made three consecutive bowl appearances, while Verduzco was the starting quarterback (0-3). He sits fifth all-time in both touchdown passes and yards in Illini history.

7. Wes Lunt (2014-2016): Lunt began his career at Oklahoma State before transferring to Illinois. Unfortunately, Lunt’s career was hampered by injury. He missed games in both 2014 and 2016. However, Lunt did lead the Illini to a bowl game in 2014 and is seventh all-time in passing yards and passing touchdowns in school history.

8. Jon Beutjer (2002-2004): Like Wes Lunt, Jon Beutjer’s career at Illinois was hampered by injuries. However, Beutjuer was the only bright spot on some pretty bad Illini teams under Ron Turner when he was healthy. Beutjer’s best season was his first, throwing for 21 touchdowns and over 2500 yards. Though the Illini did not win many games during Beutjer’s career, he is still top ten all-time in passing yards (ninth) and touchdown passes (sixth).

Quarterbacks 9-10

9. Johnny Johnson (1992-1995): There is perhaps no more underrated quarterback on this list than Johnny Johnson. Though his career would end with an-injury plagued 1995 season, he had a solid career in Champaign. Johnson led the Fighting Illini to a Liberty Bowl victory in 1994. Johnson’s most notable accomplishments are leading the Illini in an upset of Michigan in 1993 and going 3-0 against Iowa in dominant fashion in 1993, 1994, and 1995.

10. Jeff George (1998-1989): Although there are more athletic quarterbacks on this list (Juice Williams, Nathan Scheelhaase), Jeff George is the most gifted thrower on this list, even if he did throw it to the wrong team at times. Before becoming the first pick in the 1990 NFL Draft, George led the Illini to consecutive bowl games in 1988 and 1989, winning the Citrus Bowl in 1990, where he was named MVP.

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.