Illinois Fighting Illini Football: Will QB Nathan Scheelhaase Finally Reach Full Potential in 2013?

By Barry Leonard Jr
Nathan Scheelhaase
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

When Nathan Scheelhaase signed with the Illinois Fighting Illini in 2009 there was a lot of excitement surrounding the young quarterback. He was a four-star recruit and was a dual-threat with his ability to both run and throw the football. However, inconsistent play and an injury have kept him from reaching his potential at Illinois. As a senior in 2013, Scheelhaase will look to finally put together a solid season.

After being given a redshirt for the 2009 season, Scheelhaase won the starting job in 2010, having to replace Juice Williams, who left as the school’s the career leader in total offense. During that year, Scheelhaase threw for 1,825 yards and 17 touchdowns. He also rushed for an impressive 868 yards and scored five times on the ground.

Though he put up decent numbers his first year, the team finished with a mediocre record of 6-6, but did end that season with a Texas Bowl victory over the Baylor Bears.

During the 2011 season, Scheelhaase put up a career-high 2,110 passing yards. However, after starting strong, he struggled down the stretch and began losing snaps to backup Riley O’Toole.

Last year, Scheelhaase was injured in the season opener and missed the next two games. After that injury, he was never really able to get on track and began splitting time once again with O’Toole.  He finished last season with career-lows in pass attempts, rush attempts, passing yards, rushing yards, and total touchdowns.

The Illini really struggled as a team in 2012, winning just two games under new head coach Tim Beckman.

Entering this season, Scheelhaase is once again slated to be the starting quarterback.  As a senior, he will need to provide leadership and consistent play to help the team win. The offense returns several starters, including leading receiver Ryan Lankford and leading rusher Donovonn Young. Having experience at those skill positions should help the offense be more productive.

When reflecting on Scheelhaase’s college career, he has shown flashes of what some were projecting from him when he entered college. The 2011 win against Northwestern stands out as probably his best game. Against the Wildcats, he threw for 391 yards and three touchdowns. He also added a rushing touchdown in the game.

Unfortunately, for Scheelhaase, there have been more struggles than triumphs so far. This year will be his last attempt to reach his full potential. He’s completely healthy and will try to hold off O’Toole from taking playing time away. However, if Scheelhaase struggles at all to start the year, don’t be surprised to see another timeshare at quarterback for the Illini.

Barry Leonard Jr. is a Big 10 Football Writer for Follow him on Twitter @barryleonardjr,“Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

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