Jeff Brohm Coaching Up Youngest Position

Any offense needs a competent quarterback to run it. With a four-year starter graduating, the Fighting Illini are turning to an untried redshirt freshman and two true freshmen to handle the job efficiently. All opposing defenses will try to pressure youngsters into mistakes, but quarterback coach Jeff Brohm believes his guys can handle it when called upon.

Jeff Brohm is in his first year as Illinois quarterback coach. A former pro quarterback, Brohm came with Offensive Coordinator Paul Petrino to put excitement back into the Illini offensive attack. That starts with quarterback.

Brohm knows the importance of getting youngsters Nathan Scheelhaase, Chandler Whitmer and Miles Osei ready for all eventualities, and he is pleased with their progress to date.

"Things have been going well. Guys have come out and worked hard. I think they're all hungry to come out and have the best year they possibly can."

Redshirt freshman Scheelhaase was declared the starter over the summer, and he has the potential to do great things. Brohm must help him develop quickly despite his lack of experience.

"He's exactly what you're looking for as far as attitude, work ethic, toughness, leadership. He has all the intangibles you want at quarterback. He's an excellent athlete and does all those things well.

"His thing is that he is young, and he's just got to get as much experience as he can in practices and scrimmages to get ready for game one and build on that."

It is undetermined whether either of the freshmen Whitmer or Osei will be given time on the field this fall in case Scheelhaase needs relief. Both have ability but are clearly behind Scheelhaase at this point.

"They're both coming along well," Brohm explains. "Chandler was fortunate to be here in the spring. He made strides throughout the summer. He knows what he has to work on, and he's doing that. He also puts in the time and has a great work ethic. I think he's going to improve and improve every week."

By graduating from high school early and playing spring ball with the Illini, Whitmer got a big jump on Osei.

"It did. He got a lot of good experience and got a lot of repetitions for a true freshman coming in early due to a lack of experience we have at that position. He had a lot of film of himself to watch in the spring and summer, and I think that has helped him. I think he's already a better player right now."

Osei won't make it easy for him. The Mt. Prospect freshman is smart, has a strong, accurate arm and excellent quickness.

"Without question, Miles is a great young kid. He's very hungry, he wants to do well, he's a competitor. He doesn't say a whole lot. Those are the guys you've got to worry about a little bit. They come ready to play and ready to do whatever it takes.

"He's got a really good arm, and he can run. His thing is just picking the offense up as fast as he can. That will be the thing that will set him back a little early on. He'll try to do that as fast as he can."

What does Scheelhaase need to work on this fall to prepare for his first year at the helm?

"I just think Nathan has to become the best passer he can be. He's worked extremely hard on his accuracy and has done very well at that. I think he's just got to be able to make some throws in passing situations where they know we're gonna throw it.

"When things aren't there, if he doesn't think he can make a throw he's got to be able to tuck it and run and use his feet and athleticism. Basically I'd rather see him throw to the checkdown than run the ball. He's got to be able to balance that.

"I think with his athleticism, he needs to work on turning the ball over as little as anyone in the Big 10 because he has such good athletic ability."

If there is a wildcard in the quarterback competition, it is fifth year senior Eddie McGee. He is now a starting receiver, but he could spell Scheelhaase if needed since he played four years at quarterback. He will be given a package of quarterback plays to take advantage of his athleticism, a package that could be expanded if necessary.

"Without question we're gonna carry a package for him. He's worked extremely hard. He's a great leader, has great experience and has played the position. Obviously, he's trying to become the best receiver he possibly can, but we're definitely giving him quarterback work every day.

"We're gonna have things for him because I think he can help us. The key is just putting the ball in his hands during the game where he can go make plays, which is what he's good at. And then letting him be as good a passer as he can and execute that.

"He does have experience at it. It's just a matter of giving him plays he's comfortable with and that he's repped quite a bit in practice."

In the past, McGee was given repetitions at receiver but played sparingly there to protect from injury as Juice Williams's backup. He will not be protected this year. He is a receiver first and foremost.

"We're gonna play him at receiver. I think he knows that if he wants to play at the highest level, that's gonna be his best position. He's worked hard at it, he's a big target, he's athletic, he knows how to run routes. So he's got to be effective there.

"We've got to do things that he does well at that position. We've got to get the ball in his hands. If that's to give him some snaps, that's what we will do."

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