CHAMPAIGN — Chase Brown barely performed double-digit snaps in Illinois’ season opener at Wisconsin.
That restricted alternative yielded simply 4 touches. Three rushes for 12 yards and one reception the place he was introduced down two yards behind the road of scrimmage.
Brown incomes the beginning in Week 2 towards Purdue was an announcement from Illinois offensive coordinator Rod Smith. He supposed to make use of the 5-foot-11, 195-pound redshirt sophomore operating again extra.
So he did.
Brown performed in 60 % of Illinois’ offensive snaps towards the Boilermakers — usually occasions in two-back backfields subsequent to Mike Epstein. The Western Michigan switch took benefit of his greater position, speeding 11 occasions for a team-high 73 yards and catching one other cross out of the backfield — and for constructive yardage this time.
It was … a begin.
“I knew if I needed to begin, I needed to get within the playbook and study and present the coaches I can play in a beginning position,” Brown mentioned. “That entire transition from Western Michigan to right here, I knew I needed to have an enormous position on this crew. Getting the beginning towards Purdue is thrilling, however I have to construct confidence and expertise and carry that on into the subsequent recreation.”
Brown ought to issue simply as a lot into Saturday’s recreation towards Minnesota — a 2:30 p.m. kickoff at Memorial Stadium — as he did towards Purdue. Brown was informed an even bigger position was coming towards the Boilermakers after his minimal utilization at Wisconsin, and that solely intensified after Illinois’ roster losses to COVID-19.
Brandon Peters’ constructive check and Isaiah Williams dominated out due to contact tracing pushed Matt Robinson to the highest of the quarterback depth chart. The Illini already supposed to run the ball extra, and Smith doubled down on that after Robinson was damage throughout the crew’s first drive and fourth-string quarterback Coran Taylor took the offensive reins. The concept was to ease Taylor into the sport by counting on Brown and Epstein.
Smith preferred what he noticed from Brown in his first actual alternative. The London, Ontario, native performed sparingly in 4 video games in 2019 to protect his redshirt after which once more on this 12 months’s season opener the place the Illinois offense by no means discovered strong footing.
“He’s acquired a great measurement, pace and power and athleticism,” Smith mentioned of Brown. “Quite a lot of stuff you like about him. He’s simply acquired to play extra. We simply made a concerted effort to verify to get him within the recreation. Him and Mike each. We like each these guys.”
Almost half of Brown’s speeding yardage towards Purdue got here in a 30-yard achieve to finish the primary quarter. Smith foresees extra lengthy runs like that this season from Brown, who “runs onerous” and “performs the sport onerous.”
Smith additionally is aware of busted performs may ensue. Missed blocks. Safety points. The 20-year-old Brown remains to be studying.
However Brown is a fast learner. He is aware of he was taking part in too quick and never disciplined sufficient towards Wisconsin. He let the run recreation come to him a bit extra towards Purdue.
“I’m simply getting extra snug with the offense,” Brown mentioned. “Week 1, my tempo was off. I used to be hitting the holes method too quick and never letting them develop. … In case you go on the market and also you hit the opening too quick or hit it earlier than it develops, typically it’s not there straight away. Letting it develop and letting the linemen make their blocks, typically issues open up the place for those who’re speeding it, they wouldn’t be there.”
Brown mentioned he’s been attempting to carry on to that tempo this week in observe. He noticed the advantages of slowing himself down simply sufficient towards Purdue.
“Going into Week 3, I’ve acquired to stay to that tempo I’m engaged on proper now, and it’ll open up quite a bit for me,” Brown mentioned. “I’m simply trying ahead to this coming week. I simply need to construct on high of that and actually construct up expertise and confidence. Enjoying assured is simply as vital as realizing what to do on the sector.”
Scott Richey is a reporter masking school basketball at The Information-Gazette. His electronic mail is firstname.lastname@example.org, and you’ll observe him on Twitter (@srrichey).