Illini tab Wes Lunt as starting quarterback

Illini tab Wes Lunt as starting quarterback
August 20, 2014, 12:45 pm
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Vinnie Duber

In a move expected by many, Wes Lunt is the Fighting Illini's new starting quarterback.

Tim Beckman made the announcement Wednesday afternoon that the Rochester, Ill., native and Rochester High School alum would take the reins of the Illinois offense as the successor to four-year starter Nathan Scheelhaase.

Lunt beat out Wheaton Warrenville South product Reilly O'Toole and Bolingbrook grad Aaron Bailey for the job.

Lunt transferred in from Oklahoma State ahead of last season before sitting out the 2013 campaign, as dictated by NCAA rules. Lunt was thrust into a handful of starts during his freshman year in Stillwater and finished his only season with the Cowboys completing 81-of-131 passing attempts for 1,108 yards, six touchdowns and seven interceptions.

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The official naming of Lunt as the starter under center was expected for some time, as he has been practicing with the No. 1 offense. Though he was viewed by many as the most physically gifted of the three quarterbacks competing for the job, Lunt had to contend with O'Toole's knowledge of Bill Cubit's offense and leadership capabilities that made the senior a worthy option. Bailey, meanwhile, showed off what teammates described as freakish athleticism during sporadic play last season.

Lunt now has the task of following up an amazing season from Scheelhaase in 2013, one that saw Cubit turn the offense completely around and morph it into one of the conference's most electric. Lunt will have help in the form of talented running back Josh Ferguson, who excelled in both the run game and the pass game last season. And while the wide receiving corps will look much different from a year ago, there are several newcomers — be they junior-college transfers or freshmen — who have the coaching staff excited.

If Lunt can replicate what Scheelhaase did — and maybe add a few wins to the win-loss record — Illini fans will be mighty happy.