Asmussen | Ten months in C-U prepares Altmyer for pending 'football weather'

Nov. 1—CHAMPAIGN — What's the biggest difference between playing in the SEC and Big Ten?

This week, Illinois quarterback Luke Altmyer will find out it is partly the weather.

His old school, No. 11 Mississippi, hosts Texas A&M on Saturday. The forecast calls for a temperature of 69 degrees at kickoff in Oxford, Miss. With sunny skies.

Meanwhile, Altmyer and the Illini (3-5, 1-4 Big Ten) play at chillier Minnesota (5-3, 3-2) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday on BTN. Temperature at kickoff: 42 degrees and cloudy, of course. Perfect conditions for the offensive and defensive linemen.

Not so great for those trying to pitch and catch.

The Starkville, Miss., native worked out Tuesday in feel-like conditions of 25 degrees.

He first arrived on campus in January and has gotten used to the winters in east central Illinois.

"We practice in it all spring," Altmyer said at the Smith Center after practice. "I've played in the cold before down in Mississippi. It gets cold down there. I think the wind is just a bigger factor here.

"It's obviously an obstacle. It can be. I feel like I do pretty well in it. You learn to cope with it (the wind). Starting in January, it doesn't stop, I feel like, all year. You learn each and every opportunity."

Good news on the weather front at Minneapolis' Huntington Bank Stadium: the wind is expected to be light.

Back to work

Illinois didn't have a game last Saturday, the lone open week of the season.

How did Altmyer spend the day?

"I got a lot of rest in," said the 6-foot-2, 200-pound sophomore quarterback. "You play eight straight weeks and the main goal was to get our bodies back as a group and to get some good rest in, so we're prepared for these last four games of our year."

Altmyer has taken his share of hard shots from opposing defenses. And he has shown a willingness to run when needed.

Is he sore? Nah.

"I feel great," Altmyer said. "I feel like I'm getting ready for Week 1. My body feels good."

Mindful of his workload this season, the Illinois coaches didn't push Altmyer during the open week practices. He needed a break.

"Not just physical rest but mental rest," Altmyer said. "I think it's not bad to get away from it for a little bit, so you're refreshed for this back half of the year."

He spent quality time with the Illinois wide receivers, sharpening the little things.

"We made sure we were maximizing our opportunities to get ready for these last four," he said.

Learning curve

Altmyer now has more than half a season in the Big Ten. He has a better understanding of what he will face each week. Remember, his time on the field for Mississippi was limited.

"It's just a great league," Altmyer said of the Big Ten. "That's a given. So much tradition and history and a lot of great teams. A lot of great physical players that will play at the next level for a long time on each and every squad."

His goal is to improve each week against the stellar competition.

"You learn from each and every rep how to take advantage of certain defenses and how players play," he said. "It's been a process, and I don't feel like I'm there yet."

Last year's starting quarterback (Tommy DeVito, now with the New York Giants), had an effective season. He ranked fourth in the nation in completion percentage and 47th in passing efficiency. He threw 15 touchdown passes and had only four interceptions.

Altmyer currently ranks 53rd in completion percentage (63.2) and 80th in passing efficiency. He has thrown 10 touchdown passes and nine interceptions, with four against Penn State.

His team needs to win three of its last four to become bowl eligible. Numbers like DeVito piled up in 2022 would do the trick.

As he said often during an 11-minute media session, Altmyer isn't looking past the next game with the Gophers.

But there will be a decision for Altmyer after the season. He has enough years in college to consider trying the NFL. Or he can come back for another year and improve his draft stock.

The latter option makes the most sense.