Illini QB Nathan Scheelhaase: should he keep his job?



In the 2012 Illini spring game, they seemed to have the same exact issue that they have during the final seven games of 2011- throwing the ball forward.

Perhaps part of the spring scrimmage m.o. was to hold back that part of the offense, but then again it’s a preseason exhibition why wouldn’t you let it fly?
Unless it’s simply because you can’t?

And the statistics for starting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase were extremely putrid that rainy Saturday, continuing the regression that he showed the final seven games of 2011.


In the bowl win over UCLA, the Illini couldn’t or just wouldn’t throw the ball downfield either. And now the one guy who made a vertical passing play in that game- AJ Jenkins- is playing his football a stone’s throw away from where that game was played (he was taken in the first round by the San Francisco 49ers, the game itself was played at the home of the MLB team, the Giants)

It’s not like Reilly O’toole has been setting the world on fire with his numbers either, it’s just that Nate Scheelhaase hasn’t progressed much overall in his two years. Aided by now Detroit Lions tailback Mikel Leshoure, he had a good-for-a-freshman-type-season in 2010, had a great first half of 2011, terrible second half and is now right back where he started. How will he do without Jenkins, who inflated his numbers in 2011?

New coach Tim Beckman gave us some coachspeak on conference call about the qb derby this spring.

“Really, Nathan, Miles, and Reilly, they’re respected, they’re working hard trying to make this football team better. The things you don’t realize as a football coach until you line em up is the leadership capablities, and he’s done a very good job with that,” Beckman said.

Nate has gotten most of the first team reps, but Reilly has worked with the ones as well.

“we’ll make sure they get the same opportunity that each other gets, to make sure they’re throwing to the same lengths of receivers and getting the same protections of the offensive line,” Beckman said this offseason.

So the gig is Scheelhaase’s to lose, but if he continues his slide, he’ll indeed lose the starting job- he’s not cemented there.

Scheelhaase also gave us some quality coachspeak about his competition with Reilly:

“I think we’re both pretty talented quarterbacks who can get the job doing, I think they have a lot of respect for what I’ve done and how much I’ve played over the last two years, and I think I’ve taken a majority of the reps with the ones. I think they’re pleased with all three of us honestly, we run our offense well,”

So is there pressure on #2 to stay #1 on the depth chart as he learns the new system?

“I think the best mentality you can have is do something where you show the coaches what you can do, it’s not just about winning the job or losing the job,” Scheelhaase said.

What does that mean exactly? It means he better make some strides forward this fall in order to retain the job.

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