RANTOUL – If there were any doubts about Illinois’ intentions for freshman quarterback Aaron Bailey this season, coach Tim Beckman clarified matters after Monday’s practice.
“If I could say right now whether he’s getting redshirted, I’d say no,” Beckman told the Tribune. “Aaron Bailey can help us do things. You never know, but right now I would say that Aaron Bailey is going to play for the 2013 Illini.”
Beckman implied injury would be the only factor that would lead to Bailey being redshirted.
Based on his practice reps, most observers assumed Bailey was on track to play. He entered training camp as the third quarterback behind starter Nathan Scheelhaase and backup Reilly O’Toole, yet got more work than expected for a No. 3.
When Scheelhaase tweaked his right ankle last week, Bailey moved into the backup role for a few practices. And there has been speculation about when Bailey might surpass O’Toole as the backup, and thus move closer to challenging Scheelhaase for a starting role.
Offensive coordinator Bill Cubit previously mentioned having a special package of plays for the freshman.
Beckman was asked if he would use the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Bailey in short-yardage or goal-line situations.
“It could be,” Beckman said. “It could be a series. I think he can do some things for us on certain special teams. He carries a lot with him in terms of his maturity and talent.”
Bailey was known more for his running at Bolingbrook, but displayed a strong arm, at times, during training camp. Cubit continues to tutor Bailey on decision-making, precision and touch with passes.
Although Cubit is not particularly fond of a two-quarterback system, he said he sees the value of incorporating Bailey into the offense even with the dual-threat Scheelhaase as the starter.
“There are certain situations where you might be able to use him,” Cubit said. “I know at Oklahoma they had the Landry [Jones] kid and they’d bring [Blake Bell] in for short yardage. It gives you an extra runner in there, and that could be a possibility.
“You’d like to have one that could do it all. But if the other guy gives you something a little bit extra out there … we’re going to try and use all our personnel the best we can.”
Scheelhaase (6-3, 200) believes he is capable of handling every situation, but said he wouldn’t be upset if Bailey’s number is called.
“I’m a team guy, and those coaches have been around a long time and have been doing this a lot longer than me. They know what’s best,” Scheelhaase said. “I would never do anything to cause any rift.”
Bailey certainly wants to play as much as possible this season, to show he is capable of leading the Illini into the future. Wes Lunt, a transfer from Oklahoma State, already is being touted by the staff as a possible first-round draft pick, and Lunt would have 3 years of eligibility remaining after sitting out this season. Even before training camp, Bailey said he wasn’t deterred by the addition of Lunt.
“I’m not scared of competition,” Bailey said.
Extra points: Starting linebacker Mason Monheim was sidelined by a hamstring injury as the Illini concluded Camp Rantoul on Monday. He tweaked it during Saturday’s closed scrimmage, but is expected to return to action this week. … Fellow linebacker Jonathan Brown was full-go Monday after being brought along slowly after a concussion. … Tight end Jon Davis, who has been hobbled by knee issues, saw his most extensive work of camp Monday.
Ht./Wt.: 6-foot-2, 220 pounds
High school: Bolingbrook
FYI: Illini not planning to redshirt Bailey, who is third string on depth chart, and may use him in short-yardage or goal-line situations, or possibly on special teams.