Status of Scheelhaase Improving

CHAMPAIGN - Over the last 14 years, Nathan Scheelhaase experienced everything that organized football could provide.

Wins and losses, joy and pain -- since the second grade Scheelhaase, the junior starting quarterback, lived through it all.

Everything, that is, except a major injury.

That's why he feared the worst when his sprained ankle forced him to leave the Western Michigan game in the season opener.

"First time ever having to leave a game due to injury, so I knew at that point that it was a little worse than I've had because I've never had to do that," he said.

It may also be the reason he thought he could return in only seven days to play against Arizona State.

The coaching staff determined days prior to kickoff that Scheelhaase would be used only in an emergency situation. Scheelhaase accepted the decision on the surface, but deep down he thought he would play.

"I was hoping there would be an ounce of a chance that it would start feeling better at some point, that maybe the adrenaline would get going in pre-game and I would just feel good and I would fine," he said.

That wasn't the case. His mobility was severely limited in warm-ups, and the ankle fatigued to the point that running was quite a task.

"If I would have played a game it probably wouldn't have lasted not too much longer because it was pretty drained after warmups," he said.

So, for the first time in his life he had to sit and watch his teammates from the sideline. The time off helped, as Scheelhaase, although still limited, practiced Tuesday.

"He was doing alright," coach Tim Beckman said. "He's getting back. He's definitely not full speed yet."

Said Scheelhaase: "I think I'm getting my legs in shape a whole lot more. Getting back right where I have a lot more mobility then I for sure did on Saturday. I'm night and day better off than I was last Tuesday so that's a good feeling."

With backups Reilly O'Toole and Miles Osei still receiving time with the No. 1 offense, the trending thought is that the coaching staff could sit Scheelhaase this weekend against Charleston Southern, the losers of 13 consecutive games, to ensure he's completely healthy moving forward.

Beckman strongly denied that to be the case.

"Why would you do that? You have to get your team better," he said. "Our team needs to get better. We've got to get better as a team, so we're going to do what we need to do to be successful and achieve those things. We're not to that level yet."

So Scheelhaase is doing everything he can to be ready for this weekend. The decision will be up to the trainers and the coaching staff, but he'll have a say, too.

"I think my input is how well I practice, how well I look on the field," Scheelhaase said. "The coaches will see how I'm doing, see what I'm able to do out there. So in essence I have 100 percent input just by how I work out there."

Getting Hawthorne healthy

Many fans may have gotten a sinking feeling when the starting lineup for last weekend's game was announced without cornerback Terry Hawthorne included.

Plagued by injuries during his time at Illinois, the senior wasn't on the field to start the game because of a minor, undisclosed injury, according to Beckman.

Senior Jack Ramsey started in his place, tallying three tackles.

"(Ramsey) played alright," Beckman said. "Jack's a senior and he's been around for a long time."

Hawthorne did play in the game, finishing with one tackle and a pass breakup. He practiced Tuesday and appeared comfortable during the period open to the media.

Mums the word on Millines

With depth a chief concern at receiver, the status of junior Darius Millines (sprained ankle) becomes ever more important.

However, Beckman refused to comment when asked if Millines practiced Tuesday, nor would he divulge the extent of the injury.

"I'm not going to make any comments about injuries," he said. "I just don't do that."

Bothered by injuries throughout his career, Millines said he was approaching this season as an opportunity to break out.

Instead, he's made two catches for six yards after leaving Saturday's game in the first half.

Redshirt freshman Kenny Knight and freshman Justin Hardee are in line for playing time should Millines be sidelined this weekend.

Both recorded their first career catch Saturday.

Can't hide the pride

Still implementing subtle ins and outs of his program, Beckman announced plans earlier this week regarding helmet stickers handed out to players for various achievements.

The stickers, in the shape of the state of Illinois, come in two colors: "The white sticker on the helmet is rewarding for doing what they're supposed to do, so their goal is to get to 12 white stickers," Beckman said. "That means 12 weeks of doing things right. Not being late to class, late for the training room or whatever.

"The blue ones stand for football rewards."

The sticker initiative is the first of it's kind at Illinois since the Mike White Era in the 1980s, according to a school spokesman.

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