MAHOMET — The success of the Mahomet-Seymour offense hinges on the shoulders of junior quarterback Braden Finch. Finch has yet to start a varsity game, but he has a host of playmakers that could make the M-S offense very dangerous if he plays at a high level. The Bulldogs added a coach to their sideline that knows just a little bit about playing quarterback.
Enter Brandon Wildman.
An All-State quarterback at Monticello, Wildman graduated from the Piatt County school in 2016 after leading the Sages to the state quarterfinals. He passed for 2,907 yards and 26 touchdowns as a senior and added six rushing touchdowns.
Wildman had interest from Big Ten programs, including Penn State, Michigan State and Illinois, but ultimately ended up at McKendree University. He started at quarterback as a true freshman but sustained a career-ending knee injury late in the season.
But Wildman missed the game of football. After talking with his old high school coach, Cully Welter, Wildman was able to meet up with M-S’ new coach, Jon Adkins. It was a match made in heaven, and Wildman joined the staff as a volunteer assistant.
“I wanted to stay close because I go to the University of Illinois,” Wildman said. “I talked to Coach Adkins, and I really enjoyed our conversation and thought it’d be a great opportunity honestly. It’s been amazing to get back around the game.”
Wildman stands at 6-foot-4, and he and Finch share a ton of similarities. At the end of practice, Finch and the rest of the quarterbacks huddle around Wildman, who shares helpful tips.
“I can give him advice on my experience in high school and my experience from coaches I worked with,” Wildman said. “I had different trainers. I had my quarterback coach. I’ve had college coaches talk to me on how to play quarterback. I have different inputs that I can give him. He might not necessarily like all of them, and he doesn’t have to use all of them. But it’s good to give him the options and give him a chance to grow into this offense.”
Finch has taken the job and ran with it, and Wildman has been impressed with his development and growth.
“He’s a big kid, big arm,” Wildman said. “A lot like me in a sense because running is not his first priority. But if he puts himself to it, he can tuck it and go. Really big arm. Really smart in the pocket too. The cool thing about him is that he is young, and he has so much room that he can grow. He’s already at a certain point where we feel comfortable if we had to go to Marion next week and play.”
Finch will have a ton of responsibilities as the starting quarterback this year. Wildman has played in big games. He’s played in college games. He’s led his team to big-time victories late in games. But he can’t be out on the field anymore, so Wildman hopes that his extra tips will help Finch make a smooth transition from junior varsity to varsity.
And if Finch ever needs help navigating the wild scene that is college football recruiting, he’ll know who to call.
“I’m out here having the time of my life because I get to learn from Coach Adkins and the rest of the coaching staff,” Wildman said. “I truly love this game. I love this opportunity. The coaching staff has been very accepting and I really enjoy it.”