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CHAMPAIGN – Nathan Scheelhaase could have slept in Saturday morning. The team breakfast wasn't until 9.
But at 7:45, the freshman quarterback was staring at his Taft Hall dorm ceiling. Anxious about getting started, he turned to roommate/receiver Steve Hull and said, "Let's go get a couple of tosses in."
So, they went the 100 steps or so to Memorial Stadium and got to work ... five hours before the spring game.
"We ran a couple drive routes, 10-yard ins," Scheelhaase said.
Scheelhaase hasn't been named the starting quarterback at Illinois. But he's sure acting like the starting quarterback.
On Saturday, playing with the winning Orange team, Scheelhaase hit 11 of 20 passes for 126 yards. Sure, he was intercepted twice. But he promises to learn from the mistakes.
Scheelhaase won't waste any time. He plans to be in the football offices today, looking at tape of Saturday's spring game.
"Spring ball was just a start," Scheelhaase said.
"I will definitely break this film down. Maybe talk to Coach (Jeff) Brohm, Coach (Paul) Petrino, see their pointers on it and move forward."
He isn't required to be around this week or next. Other than weight lifting, the players are on their own until Camp Rantoul.
The reality is different. Scheelhaase and the rest of the Illinois quarterbacks will organize offseason workouts. Scheelhaase sees it as a chance to grow, on and off the field.
"We've got to mesh together better," Scheelhaase said. "We've got to be there for each other, know exactly what each other is going to do. That's built throughout the summer."
The Scheelhaase play fans will be talking about from Saturday wasn't a pass or run. It was a block. During a long gain by Jason Ford, Scheelhaase sprinted in front of his teammate and got in the way of charging defenders.
"Whatever it takes, that's what I'm going to try to do all season," Scheelhaase said.
Of course, the coaches reminded him he was wearing a white jersey, which was supposed to mean no contact.
"That's his personality," Petrino said. "I wish Nathan was live, you would have seen him running for a bunch of big plays. That's him."
Maybe the block will show his teammates that Scheelhaase is willing to do anything.
"I would hope that they like to see that out there," Scheelhaase said. "That's probably something I learned from my dad, just about being tough. I can't be that quarterback who sits there and tries to look pretty all day. I'm going to try to make plays however I can."
His teammates are impressed. Not just by his blocking.
"For him going from scout team to possibly being the starter is real good," receiver A.J. Jenkins said. "That's, like, unbelievable."
The Illinois coaches don't appear to be in a hurry to name a starting quarterback. Scheelhaase is competing with Jacob Charest and Chandler Whitmer.
"We've got a quarterback. There will be somebody that will be starting," Illinois coach Ron Zook said. "It's going to be important this summer that all three of those guys improve.
"This football team has enough confidence that we're going to get the right guy out there and the right guy will lead us."