CHICAGO -- Illinois first-year coach Tim Beckman said junior Nathan Scheelhaase was his starting quarterback on Thursday, but he was still open to playing sophomore Reilly O’Toole and using a two-quarterback system.
Scheelhaase started 13 games, was 184-of-291 passing for 2,110 yards, 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions and rushed for 624 yards and six touchdowns as a sophomore last season.
O’Toole played in 11 games, completed 40-of-67 passes for 270 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions as a freshman last season.
Beckman consistently played two quarterbacks while coaching Toledo last season. Toledo went 9-4 and defeated Air Force in the Military Bowl last season.
“We’re going to put the best players out on the football field that we possibly can,” Beckman said during the Big Ten media days. “We just had an opportunity at the University of Toledo to play two guys who were very capable of winning football games. If that’s the case on Sept. 1, we’re going to do that. There’s no question about it.
“Our job as football coaches is to give the opportunity to the best players that compete every day in practice that show consistency. If that happens to be Reilly O’Toole included in that, Reilly O’Toole will get on the football field.”
Beckman thought Scheelhaase and O’Toole brought different strengths to the field.
“Nathan runs the football,” Beckman said. “Reilly is a little bit more of a thrower. There’s no question about it. It’s still about the success of the team and success of the offense. We’re going to be able to play whichever one is the most consistent and can move our offense down the field as we go through the season and throughout the preseason."
Beckman said the team’s fall camp would be the determining factor in the quarterback competition.
“It’s competition,” Beckman said. “Move the offense, be successful on third down, do the things that can help us be a football team who can score in the red zone. Those are things they’re challenged with every day and they’ll be competing one another about.”