Big Ten Football Top 150 Players: No. 99, Nathan Scheelhaase, Illinois QB
No. 99: Nathan Scheelhaase, #2, QB, Illinois
2011 Stats: 184-291, 2110 yards, 13 TDs, 8 INTs; 191 rushes, 624 yards, 6 TDs
At first glance, Nathan Scheelhaase looks like one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten. He topped 2,700 yards of total offense in 2011, is a two-year starter coming into his junior year, and was the team captain in 2011.
He's even probably the best passer among the Big Ten's coterie of dual-threat QBs; he completed 63 percent of his passes last year, and his release technique isn't a crime against humanity (ahem, Taylor Martinez).
The major question for Scheelhaase, though, is how many snaps he'll lose to fellow QB Reilly O'Toole. Scheelhaase may have been team captain last year, but O'Toole was named the team's rookie of the year, and he siphoned a significant portion of playing time from Scheelhaase in the second half of the season.
It wasn't for nothing, either. Scheelhaase registered only three passing touchdowns and five interceptions in the final six games.
If Scheelhaase is looking to revitalize his game in 2012 under Tim Beckman, it hasn't happened yet; he was a shocking 11-26 for 65 yards (.PDF file, official Illinois site) in a defense-dominated spring game, though he did rush for one score. O'Toole was moderately better at 19-of-31 for 159 yards, though 5.3 yards per throw isn't all that great itself.
Beckman said Scheelhaase is his starting quarterback for now, but that O'Toole will see some action too. That's not terribly confidence-inspiring, but Scheelhaase can't afford to let that affect his performance.
The thing of it is, it's not that Scheelhaase is bad. If Illinois lost games because Scheelhaase was throwing at A.J. Jenkins up to 20 times in one game (that happened), that's on the coaches who thought that game plan up.
So the talent's clearly there to succeed. If Scheelhaase brings the right mentality, he should have a solid rebound year. If all he hears is O'Toole's footsteps, though, look out.
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