Chandler Whitmer explains his decision to transfer from Illinois.
"I've decided I'm gonna be transferring to Butler Junior College in Eldorado, Kansas. I want a new opportunity to play and find a system that might fit me a little better.
"It was real tough to decide this because Illinois has been nothing but a great experience for me. Everybody made me feel at home; it's tough leaving there. But you sometimes have got to do what you feel is best and what makes you happy.
"It wasn't anything personal, and it wasn't like I wasn't having a good time and loved it. That's how some kids are, but for me it was just a matter of what I felt is best for my athletic career."
Whitmer chose Butler because of an opportunity to start. Butler's quarterback this past year is transferring to LSU.
"I decided it would be a good opportunity for me. Zach Mettenberger was the quarterback there last year, and I know him real well. He got me hooked up there."
Whitmer is a pro-style passer who lacks the quickness of starter Nathan Scheelhaase and second teamer Miles Osei. He believes the Butler offense will fit his abilities better.
"It's more of a pro-style with play actions, bootlegs and dropbacks. There's a lot of under-center stuff as well. That fits my game a little more. Being able to get in the offense and get all the reps should make me better. And then after a year there, see where the recruiting process will take me again."
Illini offensive coordinator Paul Petrino coaches a pro-style attack, but his first priority is fitting the offense to the abilities of his players. With Scheelhaase being a good runner, he emphasized the running game more.
"Coach Petrino did a great job of fitting it to what we as an offense did well. Nate is very accurate in the short passing game and getting the ball to the playmakers, and he's an excellent runner who can make excellent decisions with the reads.
"Coach Petrino told us in the spring he would fit the offense around the player who would be playing at quarterback and the type of talent that he has. He did a great job of that this year, and we showed that on the field."
The experiences he had, the things he learned this year will help him down the road.
"Absolutely. That's something that I'll take away from this year more than anything. The whole experience, I used up every minute of it. I enjoyed every meeting, everything we did.
"Being on the phone hearing the call. Understanding how Coach Petrino's mind works making calls in certain situations. My knowledge of the game increased, and I'll take that with me for my football future. It'll do me good."
Whitmer admits facing a college rush was a problem for him, as it is with all rookie quarterbacks.
"Yeah, it was. For me, the speed of the game was a big increase from high school. I know every player says that. Also, having the speed of the rush along with learning a new offense that's very complex. The quarterback in Coach Petrino's offense has a lot of responsibility making checks, reads 1, 2, and 3 and then run."
Whitmer was second team coming out of spring ball, but fellow freshman Osei was given second team reps during the season. While being delegated to third team influenced his decision to leave, it was also a blessing in disguise.
"It was tough, but taking every scout team rep made me a better player because I would go against kids like (Corey) Liuget and Tez (Martez Wilson). They're flying around me. Learning to throw the ball through windows like that. I felt they did me a big favor by being the Scout team quarterback this year. I was glad I got to do that."
Whitmer has a strong, accurate arm, but his 5'-11" height is a drawback at the college level. He must learn means of compensating.
"That's why for me having pocket movement is what I really needed to work on because those linemen are 6'-5" at least. Most quarterbacks don't see over them. It's just a matter of having a feel for it, finding a window, finding the passing lanes.
"That's what Coach (Jeff) Brohm teaches a lot, stepping up and moving and feeling the rush so we find those lanes. We're not gonna see over any of those linemen. It's just a matter of making a play with what you have and finding a window to put the ball in. That's something that I had to learn quickly."
Three of the Illini's top players, Mikel Leshoure, Wilson and Liuget, are leaving early to pursue pro careers. But Whitmer thinks Illinois has a chance to be a good team next year.
"I think there's nothing but great things for them coming. We have the three big guys leaving, which will hurt. But J. (Jason) Ford will step in well, J.B. (Jonathan Brown) had a good year at linebacker, and I know (Austin) Teitsma has done a good job on scout team. I know he'll make a good contribution too. So I think it will be a good team."
The Illini lose not only a quality quarterback prospect but a family that has been extremely supportive of the University of Illinois. They will be missed, but Whitmer will land on his feet and become an outstanding quarterback for someone in the future.