CHAMPAIGN — Offensive coordinator Bill Cubit confirmed Monday that Nathan Scheelhaase is his starting quarterback.
He also said he plans for backup Reilly O’Toole to get into Saturday season opener against Southern Illinois.
And when prodded about freshman quarterback Aaron Bailey, Cubit didn’t mind revealing his plan for quarterback No. 3.
“He’ll play,” he said.
Scheelhaase said there’s no point in “throwing the kitchen sink” at SIU in one, all-revealing look inside the complex Cubit playbook. But throwing three quarterbacks at the Salukis apparently is just part of the coming out party for an offense that has looked mostly promising during training camp.
On Monday, Cubit and Scheelhaase sounded like kids with a new toy who can’t wait to take it out for a test run.
“I feel confident with this offense,” said Scheelhaase, who is entering his fourth straight season as the starter. “For the last week-and-a-half I’ve really felt good about what we’re doing.
“I’m excited about how we’re going to attack this first game, just anxious to get this rolling.”
For the past eight seasons Cubit was head coach at Western Michigan. Prior to that he had been offensive coordinator at places like Stanford, Rutgers and Missouri and was quarterbacks coach at Florida.
His offense will use multiple formations, changing personnel groups and he’ll vary the tempo depending on how the defense is reacting.
“From a fans’ perspective, if they’ve watched our offense since I have been here, there will see similarities with all the things we’ve done, but the tempo will be faster at times,” Scheelhaase said. “In just one game, you’re only going to see so many plays, so many formations. But it will be interesting to see how this offense develops as the season goes on. It will be interesting to see how it molds itself.”
Cubit said he scripts the first 25 plays and tries to stick to that script as closely as he can.
Knowing he’d like to get off to a quick start, he’ll take some care deciding on an opening sequence that will move the chains and limit the chance for turnover. To do that, he and Scheelhaase already have talked about plays they like, plays Scheelhaase has a strong feeling about.
“They need to be plays Nathan is comfortable with, but you have to help make him feel comfortable,” Cubit said. “During practice, we will practice those plays so well he’s going to be comfortable doing it. And by the end of the week if he doesn’t like it, you throw it out.
“During training camp we’ve found plays he’s really comfortable with. There are others we throw to the side. And there are plays that Reilly runs better than Nathan.
“I really hope Reilly gets in there, too. He’s done a great job getting himself ready, too, so I’d like to get both of them in.”
That’s when Cubit was asked about the true freshman quarterback, Aaron Bailey from Bolingbrook. “He’ll play,” Cubit said.
“I think we all see Aaron is a great athlete and we’ll see what package we have for him. There are certain things he’s pretty good at.”
The forecast for Saturday’s 11 a.m., kickoff is for sunny skies and temperatures in the 90s. Heat could be an issue, but Cubit is inclined to limit the plays he lets wide receivers, running backs and tight ends run. That alone forces him to shuffle personnel groups.
“Sometimes we may have four tight ends,” he said. “We might have a one-tight end set or a no-tight end set. To me it’s a matter of getting the most out of your personnel play by play.
“You can’t have someone running 85 reps. You can’t do it. The college game is too hard. We’ve done it, but they become ineffective at times.
“You want guys playing 40-45 plays and playing as hard as they possibly can.”
What about the offensive linemen?
“No, those guys have to suck it up,” Cubit said.
“I’ve done both. We had a mock scrimmage the other day and I could just go over and straighten things out on the bench.”
Running backs coach Tim Salem will be the lone offensive assistant in the press box, although he’ll be joined by offensive graduate assistant Drew Nystrom.
Defensive coordinator Tim Banks will coach from the elevated position in the press box. He’ll be joined there by outside linebackers coach Al Seamonson.
SALESMAN WES – Wes Lunt, the quarterback transfer from Oklahoma State, cannot be with the Illini team on the sideline while he sits out this season under NCAA transfer rules, Beckman said.
“But he is able to be with recruits, so we’ll utilize him in that way,” Beckman said.
So look for Lunt to be a lead schmoozer when prospects visit on game day.