The 90 Illini #67: Samari Collier

Jun 26, 2022

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I should use that photo right there as read-option teach tape. That right there is the single thing that changed college football 20 years ago. The quarterback (in this picture, Samari Collier, #16) stares directly at the defensive end (in this photo, Ezekiel Holmes, #33). That's who he's reading. If Holmes stays outside (meaning, if Holmes doesn't chase the tailback across the middle, instead staying home in case the quarterback keeps it), then Collier will hand off to Chase Hayden (#22). Because Holmes stayed home, he won't be able to chase Hayden across the formation and there's one less defender to worry about (you don't even need to block him because you froze him). If Holmes dives inside to take away the handoff to Hayden, then Collier will pull the ball, keep it himself, and run through the hole that Holmes just vacated.

That's an oversimplification in today's game -- Collier might have three reads and a Run or Pass Option on this play (the RPO that you hear so much about these days) -- but when explaining the very simple concept of read-option, this is a great photo. Pretty simple. Read the DE. If he stays there, hand it off. If he dives inside, keep it.

How much read-optioning (or RPO-ing) will Barry Lunney Jr. do? We have no idea. He did it on that play in the spring game, and Holly caught it in that photo, so I think the answer is "it's in there, but we have no idea how much it will be used." If Lunney is going to use it a lot, we might see a little bit of...

67. Samari Collier

Uniform number: 16
Year in school: Redshirt Freshman (4 years to play 4)
Height: 6'-2" -- Weight: 230 lbs.
Hometown: Dallas, Texas
High School: DeSoto HS
Five best offers: only two published offers besides Illinois: New Mexico State and Toledo
Tom Cruise rating:

2021 statistics: Did not play in any games, redshirted.


Samari Collier is basically Juice Williams Light. He wasn't a top-100 recruit like Juice (thus the "Light"), and his only two offers besides Illinois were New Mexico State and Toledo (worth noting that he committed in December of his junior year, though, so not many offers would have come in yet), but he's basically a clone of Juice:

  • Looks like a linebacker playing QB? Check. Collier is 6'-2", 230 lbs as a redshirt freshman (Juice was at 6'-2", 235 lbs his senior season).
  • Rocket arm? Check. Collier has a cannon. Can he aim that cannon at the correct targets? We shall see. But he has a very big arm (like Juice).
  • Is built to handle the pounding if he pulls and keeps? Check. We saw Brandon Peters come out of, what, 5 games after an injury on a running play? I guess Iowa 2019 was a dirty hit, but just think of all the times Peters was running with the ball, got hit, and had to come out (Minnesota 2019, Nebraska 2021, and Minnesota 2021 come to mind immediately but there are several others). Collier is much more the durable type (like Juice).
  • Probably doesn't get enough credit for "can be a pocket QB if he has to be"? Check. Collier can make the throws. Juice could (eventually) make all the throws.

The question, of course (like it is for every QB): accuracy and reading a defensive secondary. In some ways, even though he's a top-5 QB in Illini history, Juice never fully got there. We probably haven't had a QB season where we could say "he fully got there" since Nathan Scheelhaase's senior season in 2013 (when he FULLY got there). It's very rare for a QB to fully get there like 2001 Kittner or 1989 George.

2022 Outlook

I have Collier here at #67 because A) I'm not exactly sure what this offense will look like, B) he's just a redshirt freshman, and C) the two transfers (DeVito and Sitkowski) were brought in to compete for the starting job, senior vs. junior. As a redshirt freshman, I think Collier will still be in the "they learn about me, I learn about this offense" stage this season.

There's also walkon Ryan Johnson. He was in front of Collier last season, and during the Minnesota game, with Sitkowski out for the season with the broken wrist from the Penn State game and Peters coming off the field for one play, it was Johnson, the walkon, who came on for one play, not Collier, the next scholarship QB in line. That's not an insult to Collier (he was a true freshman) - I'm just saying that Johnson was third last year and will likely be third again this year.

So for Collier, put me down for this: spent 2021 learning the Petersen offense as a true freshman; will spend 2022 learning the Lunney offense as a redshirt freshman.


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