Illinois is in need of a quarterback. When they'll get one is unknown.
But the competition for who starts the 2014 season under center for the Illini began on the first day of spring practice Wednesday.
There are many candidates attempting to become the successor to four-year starter Nathan Scheelhaase. There’s Reilly O’Toole, who featured as Scheelhaase’s main backup the past two seasons. There’s dual threat Aaron Bailey, who added some explosiveness in limited action last season. There’s even incoming freshman Chayce Crouch, who offensive coordinator Bill Cubit said will be in the mix.
But perhaps the QB with the most excitement surrounding him is Wes Lunt, who transfered in from Oklahoma State before sitting out last season. He’ll be in just his sophomore season in 2014, and the orange and blue faithful are thrilled about what he might be able to do after showcasing his skills with the orange and white in Stillwater back in 2012.
As a true freshman for the Cowboys, Lunt played in six games, completing 61.8 percent of his passes and throwing for 1,108 yards and six touchdowns.
After spending last season relegated to the scout team, where he’d run opposing offenses for the Illinois defense. The first day of spring practice simply brought Lunt a chance to finally run his own team’s offense.
“It feels different just to compete and not be on the scout team,” Lunt said Wednesday. “It’s good to be out here and actually run our offense. It was fun.”
Coaches are impressed with Lunt, including the men who will be eventually deciding who the starter is.
“He is a heck of a quarterback,” head coach Tim Beckman said. “I think it’s going to be a great competition because Reilly definitely has tools, Aaron you say him make a couple plays that he made with his feet because of a little pressure. They both have their strong points. That’s what football’s all about, for competition.”
But as for when that competition will end in a decision? That’s still a ways away.
“You evaluate it after spring, figure out where you’re at there. If one’s playing a little bit more, you give him a little bit more reps. The biggest thing is you’ve got to be fair,” Cubit said. “You’ve got to go out there and give every kid an opportunity to go out there and compete. And that’s the biggest thing for the first three weeks.”