Skip to main content

Asking for Help: What Did Illini QB Brandon Peters Learn This Summer From Private QB Instruction?

Before a critical senior season, Illinois quarterback Brandon Peters sought out private quarterback tutoring from instructors that included NFL Hall of Famer Kurt Warner.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Over this past summer and early fall, Brandon Peters needed to get a simple question answered.

Throughout his entire football career, which has included being named the 2015 Indiana Gatorade Player of the Year and 2015 Indiana Mr. Football selection along with throwing for 2,564 yards over 21 games for two Big Ten Conference games, Peters has accomplished everything on the field with essentially a self-made technique. So, going into what he thought would be guaranteed to be a critical final year of college at Illinois, Peters needed to know what he could accomplish with some professional help.

“You need to understand that Brandon has done everything and gotten as far as he has without any specific quarterback instruction until he got to college at Michigan,” Donovon Dooley, the founder and lead instructor of his private “Quarterback University” instructional program.

Dooley’s QBU program, which is based in Michigan and has several national sponsors and recommended by several figures in professional and college football, was something Peters’ father was intrigued by and a meeting was instantly scheduled between Dooley and the Illini quarterback.

“I’ve known Brandon’s father for years and obviously followed his progress since he signed at Michigan. However, as you probably know, the private quarterback market is so saturated nowadays, I needed to convince Brandon how I could help him,” Dooley said. “So, I reviewed every single game throw Brandon made since arriving at Michigan and then going to Illinois. After logging, recording and critiquing every throw by myself, I sat Brandon down and told him exactly what I thought of him. I was honest and I think he appreciated that I took the time and I knew what I was talking about.”

While some head coaches of Power Five Conference football programs have soured on the idea of allowing private quarterback instruction for their players, Illinois head coach Lovie Smith described Peters' journey this summer as taking a professional approach to his craft. 

"I'm not one that feels that way (on private quarterback instruction). When Brandon is here on campus, we'll coach him up," Smith said. "And if the player is away (from campus) and he wants to get some extra work in, I don't think anybody he would be talking to would be teaching him something against we would like. Whatever additional work they're getting in, is all good for the big cause. That's how we see it here at Illinois. There's no conflict at all on our part." 

Dooley’s assessment to Peters, who is looking to build off a 2019 campaign with the Illini that included finishing fifth in the Big Ten in passing touchdowns (18), eighth in yards per completion (12.4), ninth in completion percentage (55.3), ninth in passing efficiency (128.6), 10th in passing yards (1,884), and 10th in total offense (190.6), was much more about timing and tempo than pure arm strength and athleticism.

“Brandon doesn’t throw a fastball but he anticipates well and is an accurate passer when he’s in rhythm,” Dooley said. “The things we worked on was the tempo of his drop and taking advantage of his true talent and trust me, he has so much talent.”

Dooley wanted to emphasize how the feet and lower body of Peters would dictate success in his throws and wanted the quarterback who will turn 23 years old on Oct. 15 not feel like he had to rely on his right arm so much. In order to further stress these concepts and gain more credibility with his student, Dooley placed a phone call to get a more-valued second opinion. This professional colleague consult would be with a man who was recently presented a gold jacket from the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“So I pulled out my phone and called Kurt Warner, who I’ve established a solid relationship with, and he knew instantly of Brandon and wanted to work with him,” Dooley said.

Scroll to Continue

Read More

Peters, who has worn the No. 18 on his jersey since high school in honor of his idol Peyton Manning, jumped at the chance to work with Warner.

“I was taking in everything he had to say,” Peters said. “Obviously he had a lot of great knowledge for me being a guy that has done it, led his team to a Super Bowl and knows what is expected out of you at the QB position.”

Illinois quarterback Brandon Peters working through drills during a Oct. 3 practice in Champaign, Ill.

Illinois quarterback Brandon Peters (18), shown here during an Oct. 3 practice, finished the 2019 season completing 152 of 275 passes (55.2 percent) for 1,884 yards, 18 touchdowns and just eight interceptions.

During that one weekend experience, Warner did film, Xs and Os and on-field instruction with Peters. The basic lessons from the 12-year NFL veteran and Super Bowl XXXIV Most Valuable Player recipient to the college quarterback?

“Kurt stressed the idea with Brandon of ‘condensing the throw’ and essentially making sure everything he delivers is a perfectly catchable ball,” Dooley said. “There was a moment where Kurt told Brandon ‘I never ever threw a ball as hard as he could in the NFL’ and I could see Brandon give him that look like he was understanding that you don’t need to throw bullets most of the time.”

Warner specifically tried to implant the idea to Peters that in order to be more accurate on deep passes, which is ultimately a low-percentage attempt from the start, the two keys are footwork and geometry of the arc when the ball leaves your hand.

“The biggest thing with Kurt is he’s all about footwork and having your back foot planted when you throw,” Peters said. “So, that’s one of the biggest things for me is making sure my back foot is planted...and hearing what he had to say about the techniques of that is something I’m looking forward to translating into my game.”

Peters also decided to work with a personal trainer this summer to transform his body and go from what he called a “skinny” 210-15 pound quarterback to being a more polished 225-30 athlete that can absorb the punishment of what is now a nine-game in nine-week 2020 Big Ten football season.

Peters worked with Nate Collins, an owner of N8 Sports Performance, a training center which has been the offseason workout facility for several members of the Detroit Lions.

“It was really good (because) we worked on mobility, strength and speed,” Peters said. “So, yeah, we really hit it all.”

From the perspective of the private coach that he sought out, the biggest difference from Peters then, who arrived in Champaign late during summer camp and established the starting quarterback role without having a firm grasp of the offense, his teammates or his coaches, and now is just one thing.

“Simple. Brandon is confident,” Dooley said. “People need to understand he was basically a freshman last year at Illinois and now he’s comfortable making calls, being vocal, taking control and having a presence. You’re going to see a confident Brandon Peters. That’s what I saw and see now.”