Bret Bielema hired UTSA Offensive Coordinator Barry Lunney Jr. to replace 2021 Offensive Coordinator Tony Peterson. Peterson was relieved of his duties after a lackluster offensive performance in 2021. Yes, injury was an issue but play calling also played a large part in Peterson’s dismissal from Illinois as well.
Bielema brought in a familiar face in Lunney who also served five years as the tight ends coach at Arkansas under Bielema from 2013-17 and has a proven record of leading an offense in the direction of improvement, by utilizing a balanced attack in both the passing and run game. This should bode well for the starting QB in 2022, whoever gets the chance.
2022 projected Starting QB competition
Bret Bielema went to the transfer portal this offseason in an attempt to replace the departure of Brandon Peters from last season and a lack of experienced depth in the QB room. In comes Syracuse grad transfer Tommy DeVito the former 2017 4* recruit. In his 2019 season at Syracuse, he was a very productive QB. He played in 12 games, passing for 2360 yards connecting on 213 of 337 passes for a completion percentage of 63.2% and 19 TD’s while only throwing 5 INT’s. Then injuries plagued him for the 2020 and 21 seasons.
“Illinois fans can expect a vocal leader, who is a competitor, and that’s going to win football games.”
— Illinois Football (@IlliniFootball) January 27, 2022
Returning QB Artur Sitkowski has starting experience but has also been troubled by injury this offseason. Sitkowski underwent shoulder surgery this offseason, which limited his precipitation in spring practices and DeVito was able to capitalize by receiving most of the first team snaps.
Sitkowski played in 5 games last season, starting 4 for the injured Peters. There was minimal promise shown by Sitkowski, but how much of that should be contributed to Peterson by him electing to rely on the running game. Sitkowski had 2 games that he passed for over 200 yards. but his completion percentage was only 52%.
The Quarterback Competition at Illinois
Entering fall camp in a few weeks, I think that DeVito has the talent and rep. advantage with the new Offensive Coordinator. Sitkowski does also add an experienced backup to come in at any time.
Devito provided promise in the Orange and Blue spring game and by all accounts will be in a position to earn the QB1 spot once fall camp is in full swing.
— Illinois Football (@IlliniFootball) April 22, 2022
If Sitkowski continues to put in the work this summer and by all accounts he has. He may be able to challenge for the Illinois QB1 spot.
Univ of Illinois QB Art Sitkowski working Dovetail Jump Stop Resets. We turn to play hi/Lo concepts especially to left to make a straight, balanced throw with consistent sequence on plant or 1 Reset. Always easier to close then swing to a throw. @artursitkowski4 @BarryLunneyJr pic.twitter.com/JZTjxQfdpY
— Tony Racioppi (@Tonyrazz03) June 14, 2022
Both QB’s should benefit from the fact that Lunney should place an emphasis on the TE position in the passing game. Overall the offense should rely on the power running game, but posing the possibility of a passing threat will open up the offense.