NOTE: This is the sixth installment of a 15-part series on 2013′s most pivotal QBs in college football.
Ask any coach about the importance of the quarterback position and he is quick to throw out a tired cliché about quarterbacks getting too much credit and blame.
They will tell you there are 11 guys on the field at all times and each one of them must work together for the team to win.
Coaches know a lot about football. They also know about deflecting pressure from the most important pressure on the field.
How important is the quarterback position? Ask Texas A&M what Johnny Manziel meant to the team in 2012. Ask Auburn about Cam Newton’s worth in 2010. Ask Ohio State after Urban Meyer got a chance to turn around QB Braxton Miller in 2012.
A quarterback might not be everything, but a good one can mask a number of different deficiencies – be it a porous defense, a non-existent run game or erratic special teams.
Teams without a solid quarterback need virtually every other facet of the game to click in order to overcome poor play from the most important position.
This list is designed to spotlight 15 quarterbacks whose play will dictate their teams’ fates. With two exceptions, this list is made up exclusively of established QBs who have been starters for at least half a season.
The carefully chosen term “pivotal” is key here. This is to spotlight teams that could have significant swings based on the position. Players like Manziel and Miller are proven commodities at this point. Florida State has enough surrounding its yet-to-be-named starter – presumably Jameis Winston – to repeat as ACC champ even without great play from the position. Those appearing on this list are opined to have a wider swing.
10. Nathan Scheelhaase, Illinois
During Scheelhaase’s first two seasons, Illinois managed to qualify for mediocre bowl games.
The budding quarterback showed promise. He threw for nearly 4,000 yards and ran for another nearly 1,500 yards while accounting for 41 TDs.
Then came 2013 – an utter disaster for Scheelhaase, first-year coach Tim Beckman and the entire Illinois program.
Adjusting to life after Ron Zook, the coach who recruited Scheelhaase to Champaign, the triggerman struggled, setting career lows in passing yards, rushing yards, passing TDs and rushing TDs.
The Illini managed to score 20-plus points just four times all season. They also scored seven or fewer points in more conference games (three) than they scored 20-plus (two). Two of those games came against Western Michigan and Charleston Southern.
Illinois lost 10 of 11 games to end the season and competed in just one Big Ten game – a 20-17 home defeat to Purdue.
Scheelhaase never got comfortable in the system provided by co-coordinators Chris Beatty and Billy Gonzales. The rising senior managed just one 200-yard passing performance and didn’t have a single game with two passing TDs. Even as a rusher, Scheelhaase managed to top the 50-yard mark only twice.
Beckman knew something had to change to help Scheelhaase regain the form that made him an up-and-comer. So he replaced the two-headed monstrosity with Bill Cubit, who was fired after serving as Western Michigan’s head coach for eight seasons.
Cubit is insistent on installing an offense tailored more to Scheelhaase’s talents. He intends to trade last year’s toothless attack for a hurry-up-no-huddle offense predicated on a power run game and shorter passing routes.
There will almost certainly be additional opportunities for Scheelhaase to take off and make plays with his feet – by design and on the fly.
Illinois canned Zook after he guided the Illini to back-to-back bowl appearances. The first year under Beckman saw the program – along with Scheelhaase – take an enormous backslide.
If Illinois is to return to Big Ten relevancy, Scheelhaase will have to lead the way.