Miles Osei had only fall workouts to learn the offense and impress the Illinois coaches, but he was named backup quarterback to starter Nathan Scheelhaase at the conclusion of Camp Rantoul. He saw brief action at the end of the SIU game, burning a redshirt possibility, but he never saw the field again all season.
The Mt. Prospect freshman could have been upset by the turn of events, but that is not the case.
"It wasn't really frustrating. You just had to get prepared to be in the game. You're used to playing all the time in high school. It's no different than most other freshmen sitting on the sideline, always preparing but not in the game. It's almost like you're a starter, but you're just not playing. Hopefully you can be ready all the time."
Osei wanted more playing time, but he is smart enough to realize there is much to learn to be a competent college quarterback.
"Any player wants to play as much as they can and contribute. I've just got to find my role on the team and keep getting better. There's so much more to learn, so much more to improve on. Be a fast responder, stay in the pocket, there's a bunch of things I can improve on. Working on that stuff is gonna help in the future."
Quarterback requires knowledge of the entire offense and not just your position. Learning it takes much longer than the month leading to the first game of the season.
"I've learned a lot of offense. The biggest thing going into the summer was to get hold of the offense, learning all the signs.
"Right now, I just need to work on the little things. Staying in the pocket when you get pressure, moving the ball when someone's open, throwing spirals, little things like that need to be worked on. I've just got to keep watching the tape and practice harder every day."
It is hard enough being a freshman at a difficult position, it is even harder when you must face the first string defense every practice. With Scheelhaase the starter going into winter and spring ball, Osei must get accustomed to his backup role.
Eddie McGee struggled for nearly three years trying to move the ball against the first string defense. Jacob Charest had the same problem last year. Both probably lost confidence in a futile attempt to defeat the best defenders.
However, Osei looks forward to the competition. After all, if he succeeds he will prove worthy of playing time.
"I always think of it as a positive. I really don't find anything negative about it. You're going against one of the top defenses around, so you know you're facing the best when you go up there. Any little mistake is gonna be a pick. You have to always be on point.
"The pressure's on you to lead the second team offense. Everyone wants to be a starter, so I think everyone looks at it as an opportunity to go against the starting defense."
Hopefully Osei is one who plays better under pressure. At the least, he looks on his situation in a positive way. He feels his three plays in one game will serve him well for next year.
"For sure. Any little experience on the field helps tremendously. You kind of get a feel for the speed of the game, how hard players are playing. Every little thing on the field helps."
If nothing else, the jitters will be lessened next time.
"I've kind of been through it the whole year, so I'm more relaxed out there. That experience will help a lot."
At 5'-11", 195, Osei is not the ideal height for a quarterback. He has much taller defenders rushing him, making sight lines more difficult to locate. But he knows what he must do to compensate.
"You can't really see over them, but you find little windows, you see the tops of receivers' helmets. The more you're in there, the more you see routes and see through the linemen, the more you get used to it. Even though you may be shorter than the prototypical quarterback, you've got to find a way to get it through."
It appears Osei responds well to competition. Some young quarterbacks might seek to transfer knowing they have a quarterback ahead of them with three more years of eligibility. Osei sees it as an opportunity.
"Obviously it's motivation to just keep getting better. Whether you are 2nd string, 3rd string or 4th string, you want to get better. There's always competition. If you're the starter, you're pushed by the other quarterbacks.
"No matter what you do, there's always gonna be competition. It's not frustrating at all. You just want to get better."
The youngster looks forward to working with freshmen receivers Darius Millines, Ryan Lankford, Spencer Harris and Anthony Williams for three or four more years. He is impressed with their desire and ability.
"They stay after practice and work hard. They make great plays during practice. They're always working hard, that's probably what impresses me the most."
Osei is also impressed with the potential of the 2011 Illinois offense.
"Definitely a lot of guys coming back. Everyone's kind of excited to be here. We've got a lot of talent among receivers, tight end, linemen. All the people coming back is really exciting."
The lefty has similar running ability to Scheelhaase, and he has a stronger arm. If he continues to improve his passing accuracy and learn the offense, he can provide not only good quality competition for the starter but can be trusted to keep the offense rolling if Scheelhaase is injured.