Opportunity knocks for backup QBs
CHAMPAIGN — Reilly O’Toole is in the business of building Illini confidence this week.
The Illinois quarterback shared reps with Miles Osei with the first-string offense Tuesday as third-year starter Nathan Scheelhaase rehabbed from an ankle injury.
After playing in a limited role for much of last season, O’Toole said he wants to earn the trust of his teammates heading into Saturday’s game at Arizona State.
The Illini are preparing as if Scheelhaase won’t play and will adjust if he can, co-offensive coordinator Chris Beatty said.
“You never want to see one of your buddies go down, so that’s difficult,” O’Toole said. “But at the same time you’ve got to be ready to go. You can’t be thinking about that when you’re in there.”
Scheelhaase took the practice field in a purple no-contact jersey, moving gingerly on his injured left ankle.
He practiced stationary throws during one drill while the other QBs passed on the move.
Coach Tim Beckman said he hopes to work Scheelhaase into practice Wednesday and then will make the decision, though he may not announce it immediately.
“If you’re not playing on Wednesday, it’s awful tough for you to go out there and be a starter and play a full football game,” Beckman said.
O’Toole, the Tribune’s 2010 high school player of the year at Wheaton Warrenville South, completed 40 of 67 passes for 270 yards, a touchdown and four interceptions while playing behind Scheelhaase last season as a freshman.
Osei, a junior from Prospect, represents a more mobile but even less experienced option after attempting one pass and five carries in 2011.
He also spent some of camp playing wide receiver and running back.
Most Illini parties weren’t entirely pleased with the offense after Scheelhaase departed in the third quarter against Western Michigan.
Illinois didn’t move beyond its 38-yard line in five conservative drives led by O’Toole and Osei, but it did enough to run out the clock for the win.
“I missed a couple checks that could have gone the other way,” O’Toole said. “Other than that, I took care of the ball.”
Illinois is expecting a fast, athletic defense from Arizona State, which beat Northern Arizona 63-6 in its opener.
The Sun Devils came up with three interceptions and held Northern Arizona to 88 yards rushing.
“We’ve got to be able to do some things different with the other guys in there,” Beatty said. “Nate’s played so much, you can put more on his plate just because he’s been out there. He’s been in Ann Arbor [Mich.] with 100,000. He’s been in all the places it’s difficult to play. It’s not his first or second time under center, so those things change the package a little bit.”