Illinois' Lovie Smith excited to welcome ex-Michigan QB Brandon Peters

Nick Baumgardner
Detroit Free Press

CHICAGO — When Brandon Peters opted to enter the transfer portal earlier this spring, some wondered if he'd wind up at a school closer to his home in Indiana. 

Instead, he wound up at Illinois where he'll play for coach Lovie Smith and compete for the quarterback job this season. 

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Speaking with reporters Thursday in Chicago at Big Ten media days, Smith said he's excited to see what Peters can do and is hopeful the former Michigan football quarterback can help the Illini program. 

"We were looking to improve our club. ... We felt like we needed more (at quarterback), simple as that. Excited about (freshman) Isaiah Williams coming in, but I wanted a guy with some experience, too," Smith said. "It just worked out that way. Brandon became available late. We got together and it felt like a good marriage. 

Michigan Wolverines quarterback Brandon Peters passes against South Carolina during the first half of the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., Monday, Jan. 1, 2018.

"We're excited about what he'll do for our program. We needed a guy who could throw the ball. Brandon can do that. And he knows about Big Ten football. ... There's a lot of positives." 

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Peters, who graduated from Michigan this spring, stayed with the program through spring drills — ultimately finding himself behind starter Shea Patterson and primary backups Dylan McCaffrey and Joe Milton on the depth chart. 

Less than two years ago, Peters looked to be on track to take over as Michigan's full-time starter during a stretch of play in 2017. Then a redshirt freshman, Peters started three games for the Wolverines that year — entering midseason in place of a struggling John O'Korn, who replaced an injured Wilton Speight. Peters beat Minnesota and Maryland as a starter before being knocked out of a loss at Wisconsin in November with a concussion. 

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By the time he returned to the field in the Outback Bowl, Michigan had already secured a commitment from Patterson — who wound up being eligible for 2018. Peters went 20 of 44 for 182 yards and two interceptions in the bowl loss to South Carolina. 

At Illinois, Peters could have an inside track for the starting job as the Illini left spring practice with a quarterback situation that featured no one with real starting experience. 

He'll have to win the job, of course. But if he does, he could take on his old team when Michigan visits Illinois on Oct. 12 in Champaign. 

"He's jumped right in with our team and we'll see what happens," Smith said. "He's got good size, can throw the football. He checks off a lot of boxes. 

"And when (we) met him, it just felt right. Just felt right." 

Contact Nick Baumgardner at nbaumgardn@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickbaumgardner. Read more on the Michigan Wolverines and sign up for our Wolverines newsletter.