CHAMPAIGN — Nathan Scheelhaase was the first pick of the draft. And, right now, he is the first pick as Illinois' starting quarterback for 2012.
For Saturday's Orange and Blue scrimmage, the seniors drafted the rest of the teams. The Blue team selected Scheelhaase No. 1 overall.
Scheelhaase has led Illinois to consecutive bowl victories for the first time in school history. Playing in his third offense at Illinois, Scheelhaase is competing with sophomore Reilly O'Toole and junior Miles Osei.
Throughout the spring, first-year coach Tim Beckman has maintained there was an open competition at quarterback. And at every other spot on the team.
"I think all of the guys can do it," Beckman said. "They've shown and proven in scrimmages that they can run our offense. All three of the quarterbacks have run with the ones."
But if Illinois had a real game today, Beckman said Wednesday, two-year starter Scheelhaase would be first up at quarterback.
"Nate has probably separated himself from the other two," Beckman said.
Beckman said he has learned plenty about Scheelhaase and the other quarterbacks since taking over the program in early December. He watched Scheelhaase during the quarterback's preparation for the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. And, starting in January, he has seen how Scheelhaase, Osei and O'Toole handle themselves off the field.
"He's done a spectacular job," Beckman said of Scheelhaase. "He's a leader. That's the thing you don't realize when you are watching tapes and you haven't been around these players, is the leadership capabilities that Nathan and Miles and Reilly have. They're respected. They work extremely hard. They study the game outside of just being in meetings. They're over here on their own, trying to make themselves and this football team better."
Beckman also has seen their on-field talents.
"Nathan has great arm strength, and he runs the ball extremely well," Beckman said.
Beckman wants to be fair to the other quarterbacks, making sure they get their share of repetitions with the top unit.