O'Toole Seeks Playing Time Now, Next Year

The Fighting Illini football team used two quarterbacks this season. Nathan Scheelhaase was the established starter, but freshman Reilly O'Toole was brought along slowly and made a valuable contribution later in the year. O'Toole is expected to challenge for the starting berth next year and shares his thoughts on the new head coach.

Reilly O'Toole did well as a freshman quarterback for Illinois in 2011. He completed 40 of 65 passes for 270 yards and a touchdown in limited activity. He also gained 47 yards in 12 carries. He was pleased with the results, with one exception.

"I think most of the time when I came in, I lit a little bit of a spark. I tried to make plays, but at the same time, I need to get better at keeping the ball. I had four turnovers, and that was just terrible. So that's something I need to get better on. I know I'll get better at that in the future."

O'Toole also did well in the classroom first semester. And he found a comfort level socially.

"It's gone real well. I have a few football buddies I played with who go here, so it's always nice to have some kids around here to interact with besides the team."

O'Toole will be sharing time with Nathan Scheelhaase in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl December 31 against UCLA. The Illini will be running the offense installed by the now departed Paul Petrino. But waiting in the wings is new coach Tim Beckman. Will the bowl game be a tryout for next year's team?

"Not really. Obviously, you want to do your best, so that's really all I'm concentrating on. I'm just trying to get the win and have fun."

O'Toole doesn't know Beckman well, but he knows him and talked briefly with him since he took the job at Illinois.

"The time hasn't been long, but I have talked with him. Toledo was the first to offer me."

He also knows a little about the Toledo offense.

"They play on Thursday a lot, and they've been on TV. Obviously I didn't know he'd come here, but when you watch their games, they score points. Forty-some points a game is awesome. It's exciting, a high-powered offense. That's pretty much all I know about it right now."

O'Toole also played in a high-powered offense at Wheaton Warrenville South. So he should be able to adapt readily when spring practice arrives.

"In high school, we did a lot like we're doing now. Just a little bit of everything. We did use a gun, and we did use the tight end a lot in high school. So it will probably be a combination of what we're running right now and what I did in high school."

Two quarterbacks shared time at Toledo this season. So O'Toole is aware of the opportunities for playing time.

"Yeah. Toledo uses two quarterbacks, and they were successful at it."

O'Toole should be much improved next year, but so will Scheelhaase. It should be an interesting battle.

"Nate is a great player, so whatever happens happens."


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