Illinois Fighting Illini starting QB Nathan Scheelhaase was asked all the typical scouting report questions at Illini Media Day; but only now, after seeing him in action for two games, do we have a better appreciation of his responses to those queries.
“Definitely have to say that speed is my strength, I’m not a slow guy. Coach (Paul) Petrino (Offensive Coordinator) and Coach (Jeff) Brohm (Illini quarterbacks coach) that’s the thing they love about me, but it’s also what they get on me most about- is when I don’t use my strength enough,” Scheelhaase said.
By Paul M. Banks
“When he (Petrino) played quarterback, he liked to move and run. God gave me legs to run, I might as well use them. If I see my first two, three reads aren’t open and there’s a running lane, I’m going to take off,” he continued.
Scheelhaase, a redshirt freshman, has certainly shown his speed in the first couple games, running for 80 yards on 23 carries. Although most of the damage came in the opener versus Mizzou. In the same stadium where he won a state title his junior year of prep school, Scheelhaase carried 16 times for 76 yards.
Unfortunately, the 6-3, 195 pound native of Kansas City had a dismal passing day, going 9-23 for 81 yards and three picks; for a rating of 56.98. However, he bounced back from that shaky opener with an outstanding game last week against SIU. Scheelhaase earned Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors after
completing 14-of-18 for 229 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
His 221.31 passer rating for the SIU game is the sixth-highest single-game efficiency rating in school history and is the 12th-best total in the NCAA so far this season.
So that was a good first step, but obviously the rookie QB is still very green.
“There’s always things to work on. Some quarterbacks stay in the pocket because they don’t like running, but Coach Brohm says there’s going to be six, seven plays a game where the defense will have the perfect coverage for what we call, and if you can give us some yards on the stuff breaking down and running…They’ve never gotten mad at me for pulling one down and running with it after going through my progressions,” Scheelhaase said.
“They have gotten mad at me for forcing one in, trying to make a play instead of going down to a checkdown,” he continued.
So there you have it, Scheelhaase is probably still in the minimizing mistakes portion of his development right now. Perhaps you could describe him as being in a “game-manager” role; for now. However, one scouting service ranked him the seventh best dual-threat QB in the nation when we was being recruited. Some Illini people have described him as the next Juice Williams, and I can understand why. When a dual-threat freshman replaces a four year dual-threat starter, the comparisons are inevitable.
However, I think Scheelhaase has the potential to be more consistent, and perhaps better than Williams some day.
Paul M. Banks is President and CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest focused webzine. He is also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, the Chicago Tribune’s blog network, Walter Football.com, the Washington Times Communities, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com
You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank and @bigtenguru