Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday

CHAMPAIGN – The decision regarding who will play quarterback for Illinois this weekend in Tempe will likely be made Wednesday.

That's according to coach Tim Beckman, who says it's unlikely injured starter Nathan Scheelhaase (ankle) will play against Arizona State if he can't practice Wednesday.

"I think it's tough for anybody, a quarterback, a DB, d-line, any positions – if you're not playing on Wednesday then it's awful tough for you to go out there and be a starter and play a football game," Beckman said.

Scheelhaase's status, Beckman reminded the media Tuesday, won't be made public, so his availability this weekend likely won't be known until close to kickoff.

What is known is Scheelhaase did not practice Tuesday. Backups Reilly O'Toole and Miles Osei split reps evenly with the No. 1 offense and are both competing to start if Scheelhaase is ruled out.

"We'll kind of take a look at the tape here and evaluate it and see how we feel and (Wednesday) we'll lean one way or the other a little bit more and see where we're at from there," co-offensive coordinator Chris Beatty said.


Reilly O'Toole versus Western Michigan.
O'Toole entered the season-opening win against Western Michigan when Scheelhaase was injured in the third quarter. He finished 2-of-3 for seven yards as the offense failed to score for the remainder of the game. The sophomore admitted he didn't play his best football last week, but that he's eager for another opportunity if his name is called.

"Especially Nate being one of my good friends on the team, you never want to see one of your buddies to go down," he said. "That's difficult but at the same time you've got to be ready to go and you can't be thinking about that when you're in there and you've got to help the team get the W."

One of Scheelhaase's strengths is his ability to both pass and run the football, evidenced by his 126 yards passing, 21 yards rushing and two total touchdowns Saturday.

Conversely, O'Toole is more of a passer, while Osei is more inclined to run. Although all three quarterbacks possess different skill-sets, the offensive game plan won't be all that different, Beatty said, regardless of who is leading the huddle.

"We'll do a lot of the same stuff," he said. "Obviously without Nate, you don't have the depth behind him so you might have to limit some of the things you do in the run game, but not all together. We'll tweak some things here and there and go from there."

Said O'Toole: "Obviously we might not run the quarterback as much with me in there because I'm not as explosive a runner. They still will run me just to keep the defense honest and I'm an OK runner to keep the defense honest."

Meanwhile, the rest of the offensive personnel are trying to maintain the status quo. With the quarterback position in flux, receiver Spencer Harris says, linemen and skill position players alike have tried to minimize any transition issues O'Toole and Osei might encounter.

"We just have to give them a lot confidence," Harris said. "They haven't taken a lot of snaps here lately and just make them trust us for one thing. We've got to put them in good situations and make them look good if the ball's not great and the if ball's great, which it probably will be, we just have to do our job."

If Scheelhaase can play, this will all be much ado about nothing. But O'Toole and Osei are both preparing as if they'll be the starter, with everybody else is waiting for Wednesday.

"I hate to keep saying it, but we'll kind of see as we go," Beatty said. "We'll see where we are with that because it's kind of a fluid situation right now."

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