2012 for the Illinois Fighting Illini was about as close to the definition of worst case scenario as you can possibly get. After two consecutive bowl victories in 2010 and 2011, the program seemed headed in a direction of consistency and success. The main piece in that success was the emergence of QB Nathan Scheelhaase in ’10. Having to fill the shoes of one of the more successful Illini quarterbacks in recent memory, Juice Williams, was no easy task. Nonetheless, Scheelhaase did so with his exciting run-pass combo of abilities.
Under first-year head coach Tim Beckman last year though, the wheels just seemed to fall off everything–literally. Scheelhaase suffered an ankle injury in the season opener, as well as a knee injury about midway through the season. Filling in for him as he missed time was sophomore Reilly O’Toole, who didn’t play terribly.
This now brings us to the cloudy picture that is the 2013 Illinois quarterback rotation.
Headed into opening weekend next week, it’s understood that the senior Scheelhaase will have his shot at redemption by once again being handed the keys to this offense. I say “understood” because Beckman doesn’t exactly exude confidence when he speaks of the dual-threat sensation as his guy, as it appeared in recent comments to the Chicago Tribune:
“Right now, Nathan Scheelhaase is our starting quarterback,” Beckman said. “He had an outstanding spring in (coordinator) Bill Cubit’s new offense.”
Scheelhaase did have an outstanding spring, yet Beckman still started off that answer with those two infamous words of “right now.” You don’t have to have a Master’s Degree in Psychology to figure out that the Illinois coach was alluding to the notion that this might not be the permanent solution.
Also with those comments, you would figure that there is some sort of controversy brewing between O’Toole and Scheelhaase. But, going back to comments made by Coach Beckman, that’s not the case neither:
”Reilly O’Toole had a good spring for us also, but he’s got to take away some of those turnovers,” Beckman said. “Way too many turnovers in the spring game. He understands that. He’s got to be a more sure quarterback in his decision-making so that those types of things don’t happen.”
Ok, from this, we can gather that Beckman maybe, kind of, sort of thinks that Scheelhaase is his guy, but the man who would replace him has an affinity for giving the ball to the other team.
There is a third option at the position in the form of redshirt freshman Aaron Bailey, although not many believe that the youngster is set to take the field just yet.
I really hoped to answer the question of where the Illinois QB situation actually is. But the truth is, if Tim Beckman himself doesn’t know, then I sure as heck don’t.
My only guess is that Beckman is going to bide his time through this season before he can insert his prized free-agent pickup Wes Lunt into the equation next season.
Jack is a Staff Writer for Saturday Blitz. Follow Jack on Twitter @JackJ14CFB