Count quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase among the fans of Illinois’ new spread offense.
He rattled off qualities of new coach Tim Beckman’s scheme. The up-tempo offense will spread the field and spawn opportunities for several players to make big plays. The offense is also something Scheelhaase is used to. The Illini ran aspread when he redshirted during his first year in 2009.
“Now all of a sudden, things come full circle and I get that chance again,” Scheelhaase said Friday at Big Ten Football Media Day at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place in Chicago. “I’m really excited about that opportunity to run more of a high-tempo, high-octane offense that really gets the ball rolling.
“That’s something all of our players really are excited about. It gets more guys a chance to make plays with the ball in their hands. It gets more guys opportunity to have one-on-ones, and that should be every playmaker’s dream, to have the ball one-on-one with a defensive player with the chance to score.”
With the spread offense, Beckman’s Toledo team in 2011 averaged 42.2 points per game, eighth in the nation. The Illini, who averaged 22.6 points last season in finishing 7-6 under former coach Ron Zook, would welcome more points.
“We have a great staff, and we know that they’re going to put us in the position to make plays,” center Graham Pocic said. “We just have to go out there and make plays for them.”
With the possibility of several players making big plays, Scheelhaase was hard pressed to name the Illini’s go-to player. Scheelhaase’s top target in 2011, first-team all-Big Ten receiver A.J. Jenkins, has departed to the NFL.
Scheelhaase will be looking for other targets. Different players could step up each game.
“I’m sure there will be certain games Ryan (Lankford) has a bunch of catches and a bunch of yards, and the next game (wide receiver) Spencer (Harris) steps up and makes a lot of plays,” Scheelhaase said. “The next game, we go to the tight ends a whole lot.”
The possibility also exists that Illinois will use two quarterbacks. At Toledo, Beckman played two quarterbacks. As of now, Scheelhaase is slated to be the third-year starter, but Reilly O’Toole – who’s more of a thrower than Scheelhaase – is expected to push for playing time. Beckman said the Illini will play the quarterback who’s most consistent and successful in moving the offense.
“Having Nate and Reilly and Miles (Osei) back there (at quarterback), there’s so much versatility between the three of them. We can do so much different stuff,” Pocic said. “We have the offensive staff that’s willing to do a bunch of different stuff.”
While trying to score more points, the Illini aim to reach their full potential, Scheelhaase said. After beginning last season 6-0, Illinois lost all their games in the second half.
The Illini want to turn their talent into better results on the field. Four players from last year’s team went in the first two rounds of the NFL draft.
“We’ve had a ton of great players that have come through here in recent years. There’s a ton of talent on our team right now,” Scheelhaase said. “We’ve just got to do the best we can at maximizing that talent and putting it all together and realizing it’s not one
player or one great athlete on the team.”
Tags: Nathan Scheelhaase
, Tim Beckman
, Illinios football
, Reilley O'Toole