CHAMPAIGN — Don’t expect Aaron Bailey to use his redshirt season in 2013.
The promising freshman quarterback from Bolingbrook will play.
In the season opener.
Against Southern Illinois.
So says Illinois offensive coordinator Bill Cubit.
“He’ll play,” Cubit said. “We all think he’s a great athlete, so we’ll see what packages we’ve got. You don’t want to tip your hand, but there’s certain things I think he’ll be pretty good at.”
How often Illinois will turn to the dual-threat quarterback isn’t clear. Nathan Scheelhaase will start the 37th game of his Illinois career Saturday in the final opener for the fifth-year senior.
But Bailey should take snaps against the Salukis, and Reilly O’Toole could as well.
“Reilly’s done a great job of getting himself ready, too,” Cubit said. “I think both of them are deserving.”
Cubit said he will script 25 plays and emphasize those plays during this final week of practice leading up to Saturday.
All in an attempt to ensure that Scheelhaase — or whoever lines up under center — feels at ease.
“You’ve got to make him feel comfortable, so during practice, you’re going to practice those plays so well that he’s going to be comfortable, and at the end of the week, if you don’t like it, you throw it out,” Cubit said. “There’s plays that we have done through preseason camp that we really like that he feels comfortable at. Some Reilly does a little bit better than Nate. The comfort level has got to be really special, especially this first game.”
Scheelhaase likes what he has seen so far from Bailey.
“He has a very high ceiling for what he’s able to do,” Scheelhaase said. “He’s a guy that is as talented as you could expect at quarterback from a running standpoint, from a passing standpoint (and) from an arm-strength standpoint. When you have those tools, it definitely makes you excited about what he’ll be able to do with developing those.”
Scheelhaase said it’s a bit surreal he’s coming up on his last season at Illinois. He started to experience the sensation when Illinois left Camp Rantoul last week.
“You definitely feel those moments as a senior,” Scheelhaase said. “This is the last first game I’ll run out to. Obviously last season didn’t go the way we wanted to. It’s a great chance at redemption for us.”