Scheelhaase to start at QB for Illini

Illinois coach Ron Zook named redshirt freshman Nathan Scheelhaase the Illini's 2010 starting quarterback on Wednesday.

"Following spring ball, our coaching staff had some time to review the quarterback situation and felt Nathan proved himself as a leader both on and off the field," Zook said in a statement. "He showed the ability to run coach [Paul] Petrino's offense at a high level, and we thought it was important to establish Nathan as a team leader entering summer workouts."

Scheelhaase beat out sophomore Jacob Charest and true freshman Chandler Whitmer during spring practice and will make his first career start Sept. 4 against Missouri in St. Louis. Illinois is replacing a four-year starter at quarterback in Juice Williams, and Charest, who appeared in four games last season, is the team's only signal caller with game experience.

The 6-3, 195-pound Scheelhaase stood out in several scrimmages this spring and took most of the reps with the starting offense.

"Nathan is a fiery guy; he's a really good leader," Petrino, the team's new offensive coordinator, told ESPN.com in April. "He's just a great competitor, and he's going to do whatever it takes to win. He does a real good job running with the ball, making plays. He's worked hard to understand the passing game. He's got a nice, quick release, he knows where he's going with the ball and he's getting more accurate every day.

"If he can do that, we'll be in great shape."

In high school, Scheelhaase was the Kansas City Metro Player of the Year as a senior after throwing for 1,726 yards and 17 touchdowns and rushing for 864 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Adam Rittenberg covers Big Ten football for ESPN.com. He can be reached at espnritt@gmail.com. Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at spowers@espnchicago.com.