Players to Watch in 2013 - No. 4

The list of Illinois players to watch in 2013 rolls on with a three-year starter on offense.

By now I already know.

Some of you don't care much for Nathan Scheelhaase. And yeah, I get it, it's not personal. He's a great guy. It's just the starting quarterback portion of his description that doesn't sit well.

I've heard it and read it and lived it.

Football players aren't usually ones to make excuses, so I'll write out the list for the guy.

How many coordinators has he had? I think he's going on his fourth or fifth (since the time he signed his letter-of-intent). That's absurd. While I have a perfect understanding of the 'this is a business' mentality and realize change in the coaching ranks is inevitable, how can Scheelhaase be properly judged?

He's run nearly a half dozen offenses!

I bet by now you're tired of reading the excuses because you already know what I'm going to say, so I'll make it quick. Last season. Injuries. A joke of a situation. A staff that couldn't get along. A quarterback hung out to dry.

OK, I'm done now.

Do I think Aaron Bailey is gonna be a better quarterback than anything else Illinois has right now (not counting Wes Lunt, who can't play this season)? Yes. Do I think he's going to be ready to lead an offense and be the face of a program as a true freshman? I'm not willing to say that. Yet.

So while I acknowledge Scheelhaase's past experience isn't impressive, at least there's past experience. He's been in Big Ten battles and two bowl games, been calling plays to the No. 1 offense for going on four years now.

That has to count for something.

With that in mind, as it pertains to Scheelhaase (and the rest of the offense), here's what you have to hope for -- that Bill Cubit is the right man to not only lead the charge, but to also design the charge as well.

From what I've seen and heard, he's at least aware of who he is, what he has done and what he can and cannot do with the personnel Illinois has. He's been there, done that, so I think it was the biggest move of the offseason.

Also, Cubit has charisma and confidence. I think that's what Scheelhaase needs, a steady figure instilling positive feelings. He'd never admit to this, but I can only imagine how many different emotions Scheelhaase has gone through during his career. Now more than ever, with fans anxious to see Bailey and texting back and forth about Lunt, Scheelhaase needs to feel comfortable. He's not going to be effective if he's looking over his shoulder or wondering if those in attendance will support him.

I could see Bailey taking over as the starter at some point, most likely if the season goes into a tailspin early.

You don't want that. And neither does Scheelhaase. He's the man this year. Whether you like it or not.

No. 5 - WR Martize Barr
No. 6 - DB Earnest Thomas
No. 7 - LEO Houston Bates
No. 8 - OL trio Hill, Karras, Cvijanovic
No. 9 - WR Ryan Lankford
No. 10 - TE Jon Davis

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