We are less than two weeks away from the season opener against Southern Illinois and the Illini coaching staff still hasn't officially named a new starting quarterback. Which, honestly, probably doesn't mean anything. Sure, if you wanted to, you could probably convince yourself that the longer the staff waits the more likely it is that Aaron Bailey will win the job.
Why else would the staff hold out on the announcement if they weren't giving Bailey a chance, right?
Yeah, well, that's a cool theory and all but when the Illini offense takes the field for the first time against Southern Illinois it's going to be Nathan Scheelhaase under center. For the fourth straight season.
And at this point we pretty much know what we've got with Nate. He doesn't have the strongest arm, but he certainly has mobility. The biggest question for this season will be how he adjusts to working in an offense in which his main role will be to actually throw the football and read the coverage rather than the defensive end or outside linebacker.
The good news is that Scheelhaase won't need a strong arm to succeed in this offense. We're looking at a lot of short routes and throws that rely on accuracy more than they do arm strength.
Behind Scheelhaase is Reilly O'Toole, who has the stronger arm, but is also the least consistent and more prone to bad decisions. He had a great game against Charleston Southern last season while filling in for Scheelhaase, but it was Charleston Southern.
In his games against FBS competition O'Toole was 39-for-56 for 231 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Now, while the 70% completion percentage was fantastic, the 4.13 yards per attempt and 5.92 yards per completion were not.
Frankly, I believe the only way O'Toole sees significant time on the field this season is if Scheelhaase gets hurt early in the year. Because behind O'Toole is Aaron Bailey, and the coaching staff plans on getting Bailey on the field this fall. Odds are it won't be as a starter -- at least, not while there's still anything to play for -- but we're going to see Bailey play.
Since Wes Lunt is not currently eligible, Bailey has the strongest arm on the team right now. And I don't just mean when it comes to throwing the deep ball, I mean on the 10-yard hitches and outs as well, as the ball has a lot of zip coming out of his hand.
If Bailey had been able to enroll during the spring and get more practices with the team, he might have been starting this season.
Position Grade: B-
I'd actually give it a C if not for the potential that Scheelhaase flashed his first two seasons on campus and the presence of Aaron Bailey on the roster.
2012 Stats And Big Ten Rankings
168.8 yards per game (11th), 113.40 passing efficiency (10th), 11 touchdowns (11th), 14 interceptions (9th), 5.7 yards per atttempt (12th), 63% completion rate (1st!)
240 yards per game, 135.00 passing efficiency, 22 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, 7.0 yards per attempt, 65% completion rate