Scheelhaase A Student Of The Game

One of the biggest uncertainties going into Fighting Illini spring football practice is the quarterback position. With three youngsters vying for leadership, it will be an intense battle that may last well into fall drills. Redshirt freshman Nathan Scheelhaase is a student of the game and is eager to compete for a starting berth after sitting out last year.

Nathan Scheelhaase preserved a year of eligibility while Juice Williams concluded an illustrious four year career at Illinois. He is now working hard to earn a starting berth. However, he accepts the realization his battle with Jacob Charest and Chandler Whitmer may last until the first game of the 2010 season.

"Up until the day before the Mizzou game, it doesn't matter. We've got to be prepared each and every day."

Scheelhaase is speedy and intelligent. He has only average arm strength, but he makes up for it by being a student of the game and understanding where and when to throw the ball. He was asked what he brings to the quarterback competition.

"I love the game. I know these guys love the game, but I love studying it, everything about it. I hope the more I stay the more I do.

"From an outside view, everybody can probably see I'm a little quicker with my feet. I can run around a little bit. I've got a mind for the game, and I always have. I hope that is the thing that can push me over the edge."

There is much to learn. The quarterback must know what everyone is doing offensively, and he must be able to read every defense and know how to exploit them all. It is a highly complex position made somewhat harder by a switch in philosophy to incorporate more pro-style aspects.

However, several media Tuesday sought answers to one of the simpler aspects of the job, the increased emphasis on taking direct snaps from center.

"We did take some shotgun snaps today, but not as many. Depending on the game last year, we did a lot of shotgun stuff. We probably did more under-the-center stuff today, but it varies. Even with the play.

"There can be the same exact play called in two 7 on 7's. One time you're under center and one time you're back. It's hard to respond if you're a defense. You don't know what we're doing. Maybe last year you would understand what we were gonna do, but this year you never know what you're gonna get.

"If you watch my high school tape, I was probably under center more than I was in shotgun. Last year we were in the gun a lot, but this is kind of back to what I did in high school. I learned a lot there, so hopefully it will push me here this spring.

"I was very successful with an under-the-center attack in high school. When I came to college, we were running the spread style attack, but I can do a lot of things.

"Obviously, whatever Coach Petrino wants us to do, whatever will work best. We still run some spread, we still run some under-center. You name it and we're gonna do it. And hopefully we'll do it well."

The offense run by Coach Petrino may have differences from the recent past at Illinois, but the former Kansas City Rockhurst star doesn't think it's harder.

"I don't think so. Learning offense is learning offense. It just changes your footwork, things like that. You've got to learn the reads regardless. That's what we're trying to do now."

New quarterback coach Jeff Brohm has made a positive impression on Scheelhaase.

"He's a cool dude. I enjoy Coach Brohm, being able to talk with him. Coach Brohm is a very knowledgeable dude. He knows it all, and he's able to let us know when we're doing things wrong and when we're doing things right. He can enjoy us and get on us at the same time."

Brohm has played in the NFL, something most college football players aspire to emulate. He may be able to help Illini quarterbacks reach the ultimate level, but that is not Scheelhaase's primary concern.

"He has done that. You look at his record. He's put quarterbacks in the NFL. Obviously, I'm not worried about that. I'm just worried about that first game beating Mizzou right now. That's far, far down the road, but he's done those things."

Whether he is trying to mold pro quarterbacks or not, Brohm is trying to provide his charges with a broader perspective on the position than just the requirements of running the Illinois offense.

"There is stuff he'll mention, like 'In the pros, we don't run this stuff as much.' He'll drop little things like that. Wow, this stuff isn't just gonna teach us now, but down the road. He'll teach us stuff Peyton Manning does. That's kind of cool to hear that as a player."

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