Nathan Scheelhaase will be Illinois' starting quarterback heading into the 2010 sason, coach Ron Zook said Tuesday. This is no surprise to those who followed spring practice, when the redshirt freshman from Kansas City established himself as Illinois' best option. Zook and new offensive coordinator Paul Petrino seemed reluctant to confirm that earlier, but now feel naming Scheelhaase will help him solidify his leadership role this summer.
``Following spring ball, our coaching staff had some time to review the quarterback situation and felt Nathan proved himself as a leader both on and off the field,'' Zook said. ``He showed the ability to run coach Petrino's offense at a high level, and we thought it was important to establish Nathan as a team leader entering summer workouts.''
Scheelhaase's leadership skills are excellent, especially for a player who has yet to make his college debut. His understanding of the offense and his scrambling ability also are promising. The key questions about him are whether he can make the throws he'll need to make for Illinois to be successful, how he'll handle the pounding he may take, and whether the players around him will be able to step up and ease the burden on him.
Illinois has two other quarterbacks who could challenge Scheelhaase as the season progresses, sophomore Jacob Charest and true freshman Chandler Whitmer.
After some promising appearances last fall, Charest was overtaken by Scheelhaase in spring ball. Whitmer, who probably has the best arm of the trio, enrolled early to participate in spring practice, but still has a big learning curve and could redshirt this fall if Illinois can find dependable quarterback play.