Scheelhaase ready for Illini's new spread offense

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Scheelhaase ready for Illini's new spread offense

Count quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase among the fans of Illinois new spread offense.
He rattled off qualities of new coach Tim Beckmans scheme. The up-tempo offense will spread the field and spawn opportunities for several players to make big plays. The offense is also something Scheelhaase is used to. The Illini ran aspread when he redshirted during his first year in 2009.
Now all of a sudden, things come full circle and I get that chance again, Scheelhaase said Friday at Big Ten Football Media Day at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place in Chicago. Im really excited about that opportunity to run more of a high-tempo, high-octane offense that really gets the ball rolling.
Thats something all of our players really are excited about. It gets more guys a chance to make plays with the ball in their hands. It gets more guys opportunity to have one-on-ones, and that should be every playmakers dream, to have the ball one-on-one with a defensive player with the chance to score.
With the spread offense, Beckmans Toledo team in 2011 averaged 42.2 points per game, eighth in the nation. The Illini, who averaged 22.6 points last season in finishing 7-6 under former coach Ron Zook, would welcome more points.
We have a great staff, and we know that theyre going to put us in the position to make plays, center Graham Pocic said. We just have to go out there and make plays for them.
With the possibility of several players making big plays, Scheelhaase was hard pressed to name the Illinis go-to player. Scheelhaases top target in 2011, first-team all-Big Ten receiver A.J. Jenkins, has departed to the NFL.
Scheelhaase will be looking for other targets. Different players could step up each game.
Im sure there will be certain games Ryan (Lankford) has a bunch of catches and a bunch of yards, and the next game (wide receiver) Spencer (Harris) steps up and makes a lot of plays, Scheelhaase said. The next game, we go to the tight ends a whole lot.
The possibility also exists that Illinois will use two quarterbacks. At Toledo, Beckman played two quarterbacks. As of now, Scheelhaase is slated to be the third-year starter, but Reilly OToole whos more of a thrower than Scheelhaase is expected to push for playing time. Beckman said the Illini will play the quarterback whos most consistent and successful in moving the offense.
Having Nate and Reilly and Miles (Osei) back there (at quarterback), theres so much versatility between the three of them. We can do so much different stuff, Pocic said. We have the offensive staff thats willing to do a bunch of different stuff.
While trying to score more points, the Illini aim to reach their full potential, Scheelhaase said. After beginning last season 6-0, Illinois lost all their games in the second half.The Illini want to turn their talent into better results on the field. Four players from last years team went in the first two rounds of the NFL draft.
Weve had a ton of great players that have come through here in recent years. Theres a ton of talent on our team right now, Scheelhaase said. Weve just got to do the best we can at maximizing that talent and putting it all together and realizing its not oneplayer or one great athlete on the team.

[PHOTO] Joe Maddon, Miguel Montero patch things up over a drink

[PHOTO] Joe Maddon, Miguel Montero patch things up over a drink

Despite the Cubs ending their 108-year World Series drought, Miguel Montero made offseason headlines for all the wrong reasons when he complained about his role in the Cubs' 2017 championship campaign.

Montero criticized Maddon's communication skills, catching rotation and bullpen decision-making after the team's Grant Park celebration. Maddon brushed off the criticism, and last week at spring training Montero said he hadn't spoke with the Cubs' skipper.

That tension appears to be all but a thing of the past, as Montero posted this picture of him and his manager sharing a drink together sporting nothing but smiles.

It's safe to say Montero would describe his relationship with Maddon now as: #WeAreGood.

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks clash with Wild tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks clash with Wild tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Minnesota Wild tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Road warriors.

The Blackhawks have won six straight games away from the United Center, and are looking to make it a seventh in Minnesota tonight. They've scored the game's first goal in four of those wins, and in the other two, overcame 1-0 deficits to beat Dallas 5-3 and Edmonton 5-1, the latter of which they scored five unanswered goals.

2. Corey Crawford vs. Devan Dubnyk.

Crawford hasn't quite been the same since undergoing an emergency appendectomy on Dec. 3, but he turned in probably his best outing since then in the Blackhawks' last meeting against Minnesota on Feb. 8 when he stopped 35 of 38 shots in a 4-3 overtime win. He essentially stole two points, and prevented the Wild from picking up the extra one. Across from him tonight will be Dubnyk, who leads the league in wins (32), goals against average (1.97) and save percentage (.934).

3. Jonathan Toews on fire.

After a tough offensive drought earlier in the season that lasted longer than expected, the Blackhawks captain has six goals and 10 assists in his last 12 games, and upped his point total to 37, which now ranks fifth on the team. In the last meeting against Minnesota two weeks ago, Toews had a three-point night and scored the game winner in overtime. 

4. Mikael Granlund among league's most underrated players.

File Granlund under the category of players who don't get enough attention. He has 17 goals and 36 assists in 58 games this season, and his 53 points is tied with Jeff Carter and Artemi Panarin for 13th in the NHL's scoring race. The next highest point total on the Wild is Eric Staal with 45, an eight-point gap between him and Granlund. The 24-year-old forward registered his first career hat trick earlier this month, and also had a 12-game point streak just two weeks ago.

5. Ryan Hartman's closing in on 15 goals.

In Saturday's 3-1 loss to Edmonton, Hartman defended his teammate by fighting an Oilers defenseman that was practically twice his size. He called it a "no-brainer" to stick up for Tanner Kero and did well in the scrap, but it led to an Oilers power play and 10-minute misconduct which didn't do the Blackhawks any favors. He responded in a great way Sunday by scoring the game's first goal that helped his team win 5-1 in Buffalo. The next goal he scores will be No. 15, which would give the Blackhawks six 15-plus goal scorers on the year. They had only four a season ago.

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