Chris Beatty is eager to see his Illinois quarterbacks compete in spring ball beginning March 7th. In the meantime, he has observed winter conditioning and found much to like in Nathan Scheelhaase, Reilly O'Toole, Miles Osei and Chase Haslett.
"I sit back and watch our guys compete in morning workouts. You know we've got the right type of guys, that have the intangibles. On the field, we'll find out.
"But when you watch them compete in conditioning drills, you see why they recruited Nathan, Miles, Reilly and Chase. Those guys compete the right way, and they lead the right way in drills. Those things you can't see off a highlight tape; you've got to get to know the person.
"You want to know that, when you've got the ball on the 4 yard line and have to go 96 yards to score with a minute and a half to go, that guy is going to lead you to a touchdown. You've got to have that Eli Manning/Peyton Manning/Tom Brady-type quality. You can't get that off a highlight tape.
"When you look at Nathan Scheelhaase and watch him compete, you don't have to see him throw a ball to know why they recruited him. He competes the right way and does all the other things. Reilly O'Toole is no different, Miles Osei is no different. Those guys compete the right way when you watch them.
"With Nathan back there and the other quarterbacks, I really feel good about watching them compete, run and lead. I like watching those guys."
The Illini offensive staff is diverse. Beatty says designing a proper offense to fit personnel requires careful preparation and study. He feels they are ready to start implementing their creation.
"It's coming along well. It's a blending of ideas and terminologies more than anything else. We might have similar mindsets or similar thought processes, it's just how we want to make our terminology blend.
"We have coaches that come from the Seattle Seahawks, LSU and Florida backgrounds, West Virginia and Vanderbilt backgrounds and Toledo background. And then Coach (Tim) Salem has been so many places. We want to make it our terminology so that we're all on the same page and can get the same things taught.
"Everything is the same, and everybody's together in the meeting room. Everything comes together on the field so there's no communication difficulties. Plays are plays, but the most important thing is how you communicate them, how you get them taught and all those things. That's what we're ironing out right now. It's been a good process."
Beatty feels there is a lot to like among returning offensive personnel besides the quarterbacks.
"I'm excited about our offense. We've got some guys in some positions that we feel really good about. They've played a lot of football is part of it. Hugh Thornton, I really like how he runs around. Simon Cvijanovic, you can see why they recruited him. And then obviously Graham Pocic has been there and played a lot of football. You feel good about that."
There is a large contingent of receivers on the Illini roster, but several are walkons and most have minimal playing experience. Beatty hopes the group can make progress this spring.
"I'd like to have more depth at receiver, but those are things we'll develop. Last year at Vanderbilt at this time, we were extremely concerned about our receiver spots. I was the receiver coach and was even more concerned.
"We went into the season and remained concerned. And then all of a sudden a light kind of came on, and things got better. If you looked at the last half of the season, anybody would say Vanderbilt had two of the best receivers in the conference.
"So I feel like the same thing can happen here with our guys, the (Ryan) Lankfords and Darius Millines, the Spencer Harrises. Those guys will be better because they've played a lot of football. As we go along, we'll create some depth with the (Jeremy) Whitlows and guys of that nature that learn our system and have a chance to get out on the field for the first time."
Beatty feels the Illini offense has a good starting point, but much work remains before the 2012 season begins.
"I'm really optimistic about where we are. The bad thing is we still have a long way to go to get where we want to be. We're just in a beginning process."
In part three, Beatty describes his recruiting philosophy.