Illinois Fighting Illini Season Preview: Offense
Taking a look at the offense, it is easy to see where a lot of the problems came from. Illinois finished last in the conference in total offense, averaging only 272.1 yards per game during the season. The Illini also were last in the conference in scoring offense, only scoring a mere 11.8 points per game, which was amongst the worst in the country. The offense was only able to score over 20 points in four of their 12 games and were shutout against Michigan.
There are still signs of hope for the Illini going into 2013 football season. For starters, quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase returns for his third season as the man running the offense in Champaign. Although last season was a disappointment for Scheelhaase, he spent much of it fighting injury and lacked other key talent around him. He had a very solid sophomore year in 2011 and showed flashes of the quarterback many think he can be. Sheelhaase has a strong arm and is also a mobile quarterback, finishing third on the team in rushing. He only threw for 1,361 yards and threw eight interceptions to his four touchdowns, so he needs to cut down on his mistakes in order to be an effective Big Ten quarterback.
Junior running back Donovonn Young and sophomore running back Josh Ferguson were the leading rushers last season, and both return for the Illini in a rushing attack that finished 10th in the conference. Leading receiver Ryan Lankford returns having led the team in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, while second leading receiver Darius Millines is currently suspended and an announcement on his return to the team should come within the next month.
The Illini need to make major improvements on the offensive line in order to be effective on offense and need more production from the tight end position as well. There is still reason to be optimistic for Illinois fans due to the top three playmakers returning with a full season and spring practice under their belts to learn the Tim Beckman offense.